Attorney: Houston pastor accused of swindling investors '100 percent innocent'

President George W. Bush left shares a laugh with the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell during a fundraiser in Houston in 2003

President George W. Bush left shares a laugh with the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell during a fundraiser in Houston in 2003

A federal grand jury returned a 13-count indictment on Thursday charging a Shreveport financial planner and a pastor of a Houston church of bilking investors out more than $1 million.

Van Hook's office claims Caldwell used his status as pastor of the Houston church to help gain investors' trust.

"I am absolutely innocent, I think the charges are baseless", Caldwell said in an interview with the local ABC TV affiliate.

Caldwell is the pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church, a 14,000-member megachurch in Windsor Village in Houston.

According to the complaint against Harper, at Caldwell's direction, "Harper drafted participation agreements in the bonds that were sent to investors", and she also "controlled the bank account to which most investors sent their funds to invest in this investment opportunity, and distributed investor funds to Caldwell and Smith at their direction".

While promising up to 15-fold returns on investments, the accused men received more than $1 million for useless bonds issued by China's former government. "In reality, the bonds were mere collectible memorabilia with no investment value". Once someone agreed to invest, Caldwell would have them wire money to an associate or to a company he and his wife owned in Wyoming, according to the complaint.

President George W. Bush shares a laugh with Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell in Houston in 2003. Caldwell went on to be one of President Barack Obama's spiritual advisers, publicly endorsing the candidate in 2008 and reportedly donating to his political campaign.

The ill-gotten funds were used to pay for personal expenses, including mortgage payments in the case of Caldwell and luxury automobiles in the case of Smith, it added.

Now, Cogdill says within a week the pastor will surrender to federal authorities in Shreveport, Louisiana, where the case will be tried. The United Methodist Church has high standards for the moral conduct of its clergy, and we recognize the seriousness of the charges against him.

The bonds, in default since 1939, are not recognized by the Chinese government, the SEC said.

I hadn't heard his name for a while... until I learned that he was just arrested on more than a dozen charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering. They also face a $1 million fine, restitution, forfeiture and five years of supervised release.

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