Kirbyjon Caldwell, a famous Houston pastor, has been sentenced to 6 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Caldwell was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $3,588,500, as well as a fine of $125,000.
Mr Caldwell built up Windsor Village United Methodist Church in SW Houston into a 18,000 member mega church and was a spiritual advisor to President Bush. He offered the benediction at both his inaugurations and officiated at the wedding of President Bush’s daughter, Jenna. He was also a spiritual advisor to President Obama.
Former Investment Banker
Caldwell is a former director at Continental Airlines (until 2011) and NRG Energy (he left the board one month after he was indicted in 2018). He was also a minority owner in the Houston Texans until recently. Prior to becoming a pastor he was an investment banker on Wall Street and worked for a bond firm in Houston. He has a master’s degree from Wharton School of Business.
The fraud scheme
Caldwell was charged along with Gregory Smith, a Shreveport-based investment advisor. Smith pleaded guilty in July 2019. Smith was also sentenced to 6 years back in November.
Between April 2013 and August 2014, Caldwell and Smith raised $3,588,500 from 29 investors through a fraudulent offer and sale of various pre-1949 Chinese bonds. Caldwell and Smith falsely represented to these investors that the bonds were safe, risk-free, worth tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars and could be sold to third parties. In reality, the bonds have no investment value.
The Chinese government doesn’t recognize the validity of bonds issued prior to the communist takeover of 1949. It has never paid out on any of these bonds, except once in 1987. As part of the negotiations over Hong Kong, the Brits received 36 cents on the dollar. The US courts have generally said that the People’s Republic of China can assert sovereign immunity in not paying these debts.
Caldwell kept approximately $0.9 million and used it to pay down personal loans, mortgages and credit cards. Smith received $1.1 million of the total monies raised.
Caldwell surrendered his clergy credentials before pleading guilty in March 2020.
At the sentencing hearing, Caldwell’s lawyers presented evidence that he has repaid his victims more than $4 million. They also pleaded for him to be confined to his home, rather than going to prison, citing his ongoing treatment for prostate cancer, as well his hypertension and the threat COVID-19 poses for those incarcerated with underlying conditions.
Caldwell was ordered to report to the Bureau of Prisons on June 22, 2021.