The pastor of a Texas megachurch has been sentenced to six years in federal prison for stealing $3.5 million in a fraud scheme.
Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, 67, previously served as a spiritual adviser to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and is the pastor of the 14,000-member Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston.
Caldwell was sentenced on Wednesday following his guilty plea last March.
Federal prosecutors said Caldwell and Gregory Smith – a Louisiana investment adviser also sentenced to six years – tricked people into investing in defunct historical bonds created by the former Republic of China, which was overthrown by the communist revolution in 1949.
"[Caldwell] used his status as the pastor of a megachurch to help convince the many victim investors that they were making a legitimate investment, but instead he took their hard-earned money from them and used it for his own personal gain," said Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander Van Hook of the scheme.
Caldwell reportedly used $900,000 of the invested funds to support his lifestyle and pay off debt before he was indicted by federal authorities in 2018.
Some of Caldwell's congregation have supported him throughout the trial, including Floyd LeBlanc, chairman of the Windsor Village Church Family Personnel Committee.
LeBlanc said Caldwell has paid back many of his victims and has remained active with church ministry during his case.
"Mr. Caldwell has apologized and asked forgiveness from the people harmed in this matter," said LeBlanc.
LeBlanc said Caldwell has continued to serve with virtual ministry and food distributions at the church during his case. He also believes Caldwell was the victim of his business partners and lamented the court's decision.
"We're very disappointed that Mr. Caldwell's contributions to society and his extraordinary efforts to make every victim whole resulted in a sentence that is disappointing," he said.
Caldwell is scheduled to report to federal prison on June 22.