The man chosen by two US presidents as their spiritual advisor is now in prison for his role in a $3.5 million fraud scheme.
Kirbyjon H Caldwell was a pastor who worked with both Barack Obama and George W. Bush but was jailed last year for his involvement in the scam.
His partner in crime was Louisiana investment adviser Gregory Alan Smith, 58.
The two fooled people into buying valueless Chinese government bonds.
Smith was sentenced in 2020 to six years in prison for his part in the fraud.
He was forced to pay nearly $3.6 million to reimburse what he had stolen and was fined $100,000.
The two both admitted to plotting wire fraud.
Caldwell, the senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, was previously a spiritual adviser to the two Presidents.
In 2008 he also officiated at Bush’s daughter Jenna’s wedding.
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What was the scam?
Caldwell and Smith persuaded targets in 2013 and 2014 to invest in bonds given by the ex-Republic of China, knowing the bonds held no value but still sold them.
They used the money they got to support their extravagant lifestyles.
Some of these investors they conned had put their whole life savings at stake on the bonds.
A news release said: “The bonds were considered by the Securities and Exchange Commission to be mere collectibles with no value outside of the memorabilia market.”
Prosecutors said Smith got over $ 1 million to pay off loans, buy two luxury SUVs, and make a down payment on a vacation property.
Caldwell spent $900,000 in total.
Caldwell was ordered to pay back $3,588,500 and received a fine of $125,000. He was jailed for six years.
After the pair were jailed in January 2021, Alexander C. Van Hook, Acting United States Attorney, who worked on the case, said about Caldwell: “This defendant used his status as the pastor of a mega-church 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.”
On Smith, he said: “This case proves that even those you trust to have your best interest at heart sometimes may not. The victims in this case thought their trusted advisor and friend would never lead them astray but sadly, he was merely a con man who led them down an unwanted path.”