HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A Texas megachurch pastor and former spiritual adviser to two U.S. presidents has been sentenced to six years in prison for bilking investors out of millions of dollars.
Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, 67, was sentenced Wednesday in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he and his co-defendant, Gregory A. Smith, were indicted in 2018.
Caldwell, who in March pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, was the senior pastor of Houston’s Windsor Village United Methodist Church, which has about 14,000 members. He’s been a spiritual adviser to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
According to federal prosecutors, Caldwell and Smith, a Shreveport-based investment adviser, used their clout and influence to persuade people to invest about $3.5 million in historical Chinese bonds. The bonds were reportedly issued by the former Republic of China that lost power to the communist government in 1949. The bonds aren’t recognized by China’s current government and have no investment value.
Caldwell “used his status as the pastor of a mega-church to help convince the many victim investors that they were making a legitimate investment, but instead he took their hard-earned money from them and used it for his own personal gain,” Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander Van Hook said in a statement.
Caldwell used about $900,000 he received from the scheme to maintain his lifestyle and pay down credit cards and mortgages, according to the Justice Department. Caldwell has a master’s degree from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and had worked in the financial industry.
In November, Smith was also sentenced to six years in prison.
In a video posted on Facebook, Floyd LeBlanc, chairman of the Windsor Village Church Family Personnel Committee, said Caldwell has taken full responsibility and paid full restitution to all the victims.
LeBlanc said Caldwell has remained active within the church during his case, including helping with virtual ministry and weekly food distributions to families during the pandemic.
“Mr. Caldwell has apologized and asked forgiveness from the people harmed in this matter,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc also described Caldwell as a victim for choosing the wrong business partners.
“We’re very disappointed that Mr. Caldwell’s contributions to society and his extraordinary efforts to make every victim whole resulted in a sentence that is disappointing,” LeBlanc said.
Caldwell was set to report to federal prison on June 22.
The church also released a full statement on Caldwell’s sentencing:
“Today, our visionary leader, Kirbyjon Caldwell, personally appeared in the courtroom of Chief Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. in Shreveport, Louisiana, and was sentenced. Caldwell pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on March 11, 2020. He was indicted on March 29, 2018.
During today’s hearing, Caldwell expressed his profound remorse and accepted full responsibility for his actions. The court found that Caldwell made full restitution to all of the victims. Notably, restitution began prior to indictment and was completed before sentencing. Many victims were paid over and above the amount that they invested. Voluntary restitution is virtually unheard of and extremely rare in these kinds of cases.
Lay Preacher Caldwell, who is no longer an ordained elder in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, never stopped serving the community. As a direct result of this servant leadership, 980 part-time and full-time jobs were created; 258 acres of land have been developed and more than $168 million in economic value has been added to our community, a historically underserved community. These contributions include 462 homes, a YMCA, nationally known franchise restaurants, health care providers, an independent senior living facility and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, to name a few.
Caldwell has expressed his deep remorse and has apologized on numerous occasions. According to Floyd LeBlanc, Chairman of The Windsor Village Church Family Personnel Committee, The Windsor Village Lay Leadership has acknowledged Caldwell’s full restitution and accepted his apology. “We look forward to more lives being changed and more destinies being shaped as The Windsor Village Church Family continues to fulfill its God-given mission, in Jesus’s Name, said LeBlanc. The Kingdom Building continues!”
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
MORE FROM CBSDFW