The notable Houston reverend and former spiritual adviser to both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who stands accused by federal prosecutors of bilking millions from investors in a Chinese bond scheme, plans to turn himself in, ABC News has learned.
“The surrender date will be arranged on Monday,” said attorney Dan Cogdell, who represents Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell.
Caldwell is expected to go before a magistrate judge at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Louisana to be arraigned, Cogdell said.
“Rev. Caldwell and I will travel to Shreveport and seek a bond from the judge, which I believe the government will agree to,” he said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment to confirm that Caldwell would surrender.
Caldwell, 64, and Gregory Smith, a 55-year-old business partner, were hit with a 13-count indictment accusing them of committing wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering when they raised around $3.5 million in Historical Chinese bonds from 29 investors between 2013 to 2014.
Prosecutors allege the men duped investors into thinking they were buying bonds through a Shreveport-based company called Smith Financial Group LLC.
“These bonds were issued by the former Republic of China prior to losing power to the Communist government in 1949,” prosecutors said in a news release. “They are not recognized by China’s current government and have no investment value.”
And instead of investing it, they allegedly “used them to pay personal loans, credit card balances, mortgages, vehicle purchases and other personal expenses,” the release states.
If convicted, Caldwell and Smith face up to 30 years in prison.
According to the complaint, the investors’ faith in Smith and Caldwell was a major factor in procuring the funds for the bogus bonds.
“Although many investors did not understand the investment, they ultimately trusted Smith and took comfort in the fact that a high-profile pastor was offering the investment,” the complaint states.
Caldwell spent a portion of his Easter Sunday sermon proclaiming his innocence over the charges as well, saying, “From my mouth to your ears, I am not guilty.” He asked for the congregation to pray for he and his family.
“On the road to glory you have painful pit stops and this is a pit stop,” he said, according to Houston ABC station KTRK. “The one thing that disturbs me most is [the statement] that I took advantage of people. I’ve spent 38 years helping people.”
Caldwell’s Windsor Village United Methodist Church seats about 7,000 people and was packed with an overflow crowd on Easter, KTRK said.
Caldwell spoke at the 2000 Republican National convention, gave the benediction at President George W. Bush’s 2001 inauguration and also officiated over his daughter’s wedding.
And back in 2008, Obama called on Caldwell as a member of his prayer team, according to a Newsweek article. He was also a part of a group of religious leaders invited to the White House after Obama’s faith was scrutinized, according to a Houston Chronicle report.
On Friday, Caldwell told KTRK in an interview that he has proof the accusations are frivolous.
“Everyone who’s asked for their money back to date has received their money back,” he told the ABC station. “I’ve got evidence that the bonds are legitimate.”
And his attorney, who last week declared that Caldwell would “beat these charges like a rented mule,” said his client is preparing for trial.
“As you know, a case of this magnitude will take some time before it is resolved by a trial,” he told ABC News.
Source: ABC News (M.L. NESTEL)
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