Former megachurch pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell was sentenced to six years in prison for conspiring in a $3.5 million fraud scheme, reports say.
Caldwell was a pastor of Windsor Village Church for 38 years, a Houston-based United Methodist church. UM News has reported that in addition to his six-year sentencing, the pastor will also get another year of supervised release. During his hearing on Jan. 13, U.S. District Court Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. fined Caldwell $125,000.
"This experience has brought me to the valley of disgrace and dishonor. I'm ashamed of my actions," Caldwell has told the judge.
Caldwell and Gregory Alan Smith, a Shreveport investment advisor, have pleaded guilty for selling Chinese bonds to the elderly and were sentenced on Wednesday at a federal court in Shreveport, Louisiana, Christianity Today has reported.
The church has expressed disappointment over Caldwell's sentencing through its personnel committee chairman, Floyd J. LeBlanc.
"We're very disappointed that Caldwell's contributions to society and his extraordinary efforts to make every victim whole resulted in [this] sentence. We look to God because we believe God has a final answer in everything."
Caldwell has pastored the predominantly Black church for almost four decades and has served as spiritual advisor to presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The pastor presided the wedding of Bush's daughter, Jenna Bush and endorsed Obama for president.
LeBlanc has accused the advisor through a video posted in the church's Facebook page, pointing out that Caldwell was a victim in the scheme himself as he first invested in the bonds. He also said that the former pastor made up for his crimes through his generosity and desire to pay back the victims.
The pastor had paid back more than $4 million before he was sentenced, including more than $1 million before his indictment in 2018, his lawyers have confirmed through the evidence presented.
His lawyers have pleaded that Caldwell would be "confined to his home, rather than going to prison, citing his ongoing treatment for prostate cancer, as well his hypertension and the threat COVID-19 poses for those incarcerated with underlying conditions." Hicks deferred his prison report date to 22 June 2021. The judge has also agreed to recommend the pastor to serve his sentence in a low-security federal prison in Bastrop, Texas.
Caldwell studied in Carleton College in Minnesota, earned an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and worked as an investment banker in New York. Upon feeling that he was called to ministry, he studied at Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology in Dallas and later appointed as a preacher.
He coupled his powerful preaching with community outreach focusing on housing, education and job training. The church has flourished into the largest in membership in the denomination. Caldwell has co-written the books "Entrepreneurial Faith" and "The Gospel of Good Success" and has also served on corporate and nonprofit boards. Windsor Village has celebrated his 30-year church leadership in 2012 and the city of Houston has even declared a "Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell Day".
The church of 16,000 members is now being led by his wife, Rev. Suzette Caldwell.
United Methodist Bishop Scott Jones has acknowledged Caldwell's "sincere expression of remorse" and offered his prayers.