By Kamau High, AFRO Managing Editor, [email protected]
Kirbyjon Caldwell, the well-known Houston megachurch pastor who delivered both invocations at George W. Bush’s inaugurations and was a spiritual adviser to Barack Obama, says he is innocent of the fraud charges he and a Louisiana financial planner are facing.
Caldwell, whose Windsor Village United Methodist Church seats about 7,000, told the Defender Network, “I am innocent.”
Caldwell and Gregory Alan Smith, the financial planner, were indicted March 29 on 13 counts of wire fraud and money laundering. According to the United States Attorney’s Office Western District of Louisiana, Caldwell used his position as prominent pastor to induce people to invest $1 million in historical Chinese bonds.
“These bonds were issued by the former Republic of China prior to losing power to the communist government in 1949. They are not recognized by China’s current government and have no investment value. Smith and Caldwell promised high rates of return, sometimes three to 15 times the value of the investments. Instead of investing the funds, the defendants used them to pay personal loans, credit card balances, mortgages, vehicle purchases and other personal expenses,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.
The defendants are facing 30 years and a million dollar fine if convicted.
Caldwell told the Defender Network, “A, the bonds are legitimate, they’re not fraudulent. I have evidence to support that, lots of it. B, the bonds have value, I have evidence of that as well. Thirdly, everyone who asked for his or her money back got it, in full, in a very timely manner. One might ask why would someone ask for their money back. The answer would be because the process of the sell is taking a lot longer than I anticipated.”