Put on your shocked faces:
A Houston megachurch pastor and longtime spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush was indicted in federal court Thursday on claims that he sold more than $1 million in worthless Chinese bonds to vulnerable and elderly investors, some of whom lost their life savings to the alleged scheme.
A federal grand jury in Shreveport, La., returned a 13-count indictment accusing the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell and financial planner Gregory Alan Smith of wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, prosecutors said in a news release.
The two men were also sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the same federal court on allegations that they violated financial laws. According to prosecutors, Caldwell used his influence as the pastor of the 16,000-member Village United Methodist Church to dupe investors into buying historical Chinese bonds issued decades ago.
More from the Houston Chronicle:
Caldwell is accused of using his position as the senior pastor of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church to help lure nearly $3.5 million in investments into historic Chinese bonds that are not recognized by the Chinese government. He and Smith told investors they could see returns as high as 15 times their initial investment, according to the indictment.
The charges, filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, accuses the men of cheating 29 investors between April 2013 and August 2014 for the bonds, which are described in the indictment as “mere collectible memorabilia.”
“These bonds were issued by the former Republic of China prior to losing power to the communist government in 1949,” U.S. Attorney Alexander c. Van Hook in Shreveport said in a press release. “They are not recognized by China’s current government and have no investment value.”
Caldwell was part of the team that created still-existing White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. He faces 20 years in prison.
RELATED: From a 2009 Atlantic article.
Kirbyjon Caldwell, a Methodist megapastor in Houston and a purveyor of the prosperity gospel, gave the benediction at both of George W. Bush’s inaugurals. Instead of shiny robes or gaudy jewelry, these preachers wear Italian suits and modest wedding bands. Instead of screaming and sweating, they smile broadly and speak in soothing, therapeutic terms. But their message is essentially the same. “Every day, you’re going to live that abundant life!”