Former Houston megachurch pastor sentenced to six years in $3.5 million Chinese bond scam

Crime

SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced the pastor of a Houston megachurch to spend 72 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a scheme to sell worthless Chinese bonds.

In addition to the prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Maurice Hicks, Jr sentenced 67-year-old Kirbyjon Caldwell, 67, former pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, to 1 years of supervised release, a $125,000 fine and $3.5 million in restitution to his victims, which was satisfied before today’s sentencing.

Caldwell’s attorney asked the judge for mercy and home confinement, due to Caldwell’s deteriorating physical conditions and COVID-19 considerations, adding that Caldwell had paid $700,000 more than the required $3.5 million in restitution – more than $1 million before he was indicted.

In sentencing, Hicks said he believes the Bureau of Prisons is capable of treating Caldwell’s medical conditions, but agreed to recommend Caldwell be incarcerated at the Federal Bureau of Prison’s facility in Bastrop, Texas, near his home in Houston. He is scheduled to report on June 22nd.

In March 2018, Caldwell and Shreveport financial planner Greg Smith were indicted on 13 counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.  

On March 11, 2020, Caldwell pleaded to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and his sentencing was set for July 22.

On July 7, however, Caldwell’s sentencing was continued without a date. Then, on Nov. 6, the Court set a Dec. 3 sentencing date.

Again, that date was scrapped and on Nov. 20, the sentencing date was moved to  Jan. 13, 2010.

According to information presented in court, Caldwell and Smith conspired to use their influence and status to persuade multiple victims to “invest” approximately $3.5 million with them.

 The victims’ investments were purportedly in historical Chinese bonds, which are bonds issued by the former Republic of China prior to losing power to the Communist government in 1949. These bonds are not recognized by China’s current government and, accordingly, have no investment value.

After Smith made the fraudulent pitch, the victims were instructed to wire funds to various bank accounts under Caldwell’s control. In 2013 and 2014, approximately $3.5 million was “invested.”

The funds were divided between Caldwell, Smith, and others. Caldwell used the approximately $900,000 that he received to pay down personal loans, mortgages, and credit cards, and maintain his lifestyle.

During the sentencing hearing, a financial expert testified that Caldwell had paid restitution of $4.3 million to his 25 victims, though the court only required $3.5 million, the additional money was to pay interest and fees occurred to investors. In one case, a victim who invested $200,000 received $295,000 because the fees on withdrawing the money were $95,000.

On July 23, 2019, Smith pleaded guilty in the same case and was sentenced to 72 months in federal prison.

However, due to delays, Smith managed to stay out of prison until Jan. 5, 2021, when he was scheduled to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

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