HOUSTON — Houston pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection to his alleged role in a multimillion-dollar investment scheme.
Caldwell’s codefendant, Shreveport investment adviser Gregory A. Smith, pled guilty to the same charge on July 23, 2019.
Caldwell, a senior pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church, is accused of conspiring with Smith to persuade multiple victims to invest nearly $3.5 million with them. The investments were reportedly in historical Chinese bonds issued by the former Republic of China before losing power to the Communist government in 1949.
The bonds are not recognized by China’s current government, therefore, they have no investment value, officials say.
Smith allegedly started approaching existing clients and acquaintances in spring 2013 about an opportunity to invest in historical Chinese bonds. According to officials, Smith pitched the idea to investors, claiming Caldwell was putting the bond deal on behalf of them, had the bonds in his possession or was in the processing of getting them and was brokering a deal to sell the bonds.
According to officials, Smith promised to potential investors by investing money with him and Caldwell, they would obtain a partial ownership of the bonds and would quickly receive returns. Officials said the victims were encouraged to cash out any other investments they might have if they could not afford to participate.
Smith allegedly told victims to wire funds to various bank accounts under Caldwell’s control. The $3.5 million in funds were reportedly divided among Caldwell, Smith and others.
Caldwell allegedly used the $900,000 of his share to pay personal loans, mortgages and credit cards. Smith reportedly received $1.08 million used to pay loans, buy two luxury SUVs and put a down payment on a vacation property.
Caldwell faces between 5 and 7 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release. He has already made partial restitution to the victims and agreed to pay the remaining balance, $1,951,478.00, before sentencing.
Caldwell’s sentencing is set for July 22, 2020. Smith’s sentencing is set for May 4, 2020.
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