Houston pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, formerly the senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, will be going to prison for six years for his role in a multi-million dollar scheme.
In March of 2020, the pastor plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
A judge in Shreveport, Louisiana sentenced him to six years in federal prison Wednesday. The former pastor is accused of conspiring to persuade multiple victims to invest nearly $3.5 million in Chinese bonds.
“The defendants in this case abused the trust that the victims had placed in them,” Acting United States Attorney Alexander Van Hook said in a statement. “This defendant used his status as the pastor of a megachurch 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. This office will continue to investigate and prosecute those who scheme and prey upon the elderly and others.”
Caldwell’s co-defendant, Gregory A. Smith, an investment advisor, pleaded guilty to the same charge back in 2019.
The faulty investments were reportedly in historical Chinese bonds issued by the former Republic of China before losing power to the Communist government in 1949. Currently, the bonds aren’t recognized by China’s government, so they hold no actual investment value.
Investors were told that they would be receiving partial ownership in the bonds, and a large return on their investment, but according to the Securities Exchange Commission, Chinese bonds are considered collectibles, with no value other than memorabilia. The investors were also given an agreement that if the bond sales failed to occur, the funds would be returned.
The investors were then told to wire funds to bank accounts controlled by Caldwell. By 2014, approximately $3.5 million had been invested in the bond deals. The funds were distributed between Caldwell, Smith and others.
Caldwell personally received around $900,000. He used some of those funds for personal gain– paying down debts, mortgages, and credit cards, as well as maintaining his lifestyle according to the DOJ.
As time went by, investors began to ask questions as to why that hadn’t received their returns, and both Caldwell and Smith offered different excuses as to why the deals had yet to close. Investors never received their returns.
Caldwell was ordered to report to the Bureau of Prisons on June 22, 2021.