A former religious adviser to President George W. Bush is being accused of some pretty immoral actions.
Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell and his business partner Gregory Smith are accused of defrauding investors of $3.5 million after allegedly luring them to invest in worthless Chinese bonds.
Smith, 55, and Caldwell, 64, both from Houston, Texas, were indicted this week. Both have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and three counts of money laundering, according to a press release by the United States Department of Justice. On top of that list of charges, both are accused of two additional counts of money laundering.
Police say that both abused their influence and status to lure investors. Smith allegedly used his status as the manager of Smith Financial Group LLC and Caldwell is accused of using his power and status as a pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, a megachurch with 14,000 members, to entice investors. Both allegedly lured the investors into investing money in pre-revolutionary Chinese bonds, which have no investment value and are not even recognized as money by China anymore. Smith and Caldwell promised a high rate of return to victims according to the Department of Justice. However, the pair didn’t even invest the money in those bonds. Instead, they allegedly used the money to pay their own personal loans, credit card balances and an array of other personal expenses.
They allegedly haven’t paid any of their investors back but instead offered them false promises. They allegedly told them to "remain faithful and that they would receive their money," according to court documents obtained by KTRK in Houston. Several of the investors are reportedly elderly and vulnerable.
Both Smith and Caldwell face decades behind bars for the charges if convicted. They face 20 years for the wire fraud counts alone and another potential decade for the money laundering counts. It's unclear if they have lawyers who can speak on their behalf at this time.
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