U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook’s office claims Reverend Kirbyjon H. Caldwell used his status as pastor of Houston’s Windsor Village United Methodist Church to help gain investors’ trust.
In a story that’s all too close to home for Black parishioners, a pastor is accused of misappropriating funds from his flock. Rev. Caldwell, a Texas megachurch pastor is accused of using his influence to lure “vulnerable and elderly” people into a financial scheme that even took some entire life savings. Caldwell reportedly swindled investors out of more than $1 million using obsolete Chinese bonds, which is a federal crime.
ABC News 13 reports a federal grand jury handed a 13-count indictment charging Caldwell and another man Gregory Alan Smith, a financial planner from Louisiana.The charges against the men include wire fraud and money laundering. The SEC says that between April 2013 and August 2014, Caldwell and Smith reportedly convinced 29 people to invest more than $1 million in bonds issued by the former Republic of China. The defunct bonds are not recognized by China’s current government and have no value.
Rev. Caldwell claims he had no knowledge that the bonds were essentially worthless. Facts, however, point to the contrary. According to court filings, Caldwell encouraged investors to “remain faithful” and that they would receive their money. ABC News 13 reported Caldwell used religious references to give investors hope they would soon be repaid as well as frequent investor calls that money would soon be coming. The most shocking story is how some of the funds were appropriated. Allegedly Caldwell used funds to pay the mortgage on his home, a home he may have to forfeit if he loses this case.
Check out video of Caldwell responding to the reports via ABC News 13 in Houston.