HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell is one of the most well-known and wealthiest ministers in the Houston area.
He was one of President George W. Bush’s spiritual advisors. Bush asked Caldwell, a political independent, to introduce him at the 2000 Republican Convention. Caldwell offered the benediction at Bush’s 2001 inauguration and even joined the former president on his first visit to the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But now Caldwell is accused of bilking investors out of more than one million dollars.
Federal prosecutors say the 64-year-old used his status at one of the nation’s largest United Methodist Churches to lure investors in historical Chinese bonds.
Authorities say those bonds are not recognized by China’s current government and have no investment value. But federal prosecutors say Caldwell and his co-conspirator Gregory Allen Smith, a Shreveport financial planner, promised high rates of return sometimes three to 15 times the value of the investments.
Instead of investing, Smith and Caldwell allegedly used the money to pay loans, credit card balances, mortgages, vehicle purchases, and other personal expenses.
If convicted, both Smith and Caldwell each face 20 years in prison for the wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges.
They also face 10 years in prison for the money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering charges.
Caldwell's attorney released a statement saying, "Reverend KJC is not only a religious leader, he’s wrongfully accused. He trusts the legal process but most importantly his faith. He will be absolved. We look forward to trying this case in the Court of law."