HOUSTON — Prominent Houston pastor Kirbyjon H. Caldwell and his attorney responded Friday to accusations that he and a Louisiana financial planner defrauded investors of more than $1 million.
Court records suggest Caldwell and his alleged accomplice, Gregory Alan Smith, used money meant for investments on things like personal loans, car notes, and a mortgage. He contends any money made was meant to go back into the church and its ministries.
At a morning press conference, the pastor's attorney defended Caldwell and said they will prevail when the case goes to trial in Louisiana. On Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted both Caldwell and Smith.
"He is absolutely 100 percent not guilty," attorney Dan Cogdell said of Caldwell. "Every single person that has asked for their money back has gotten their money back."
Cogdell said, as per a contract, investors can ask for their money back and about $1 million has already been returned. He stated he did not know the reason why some people asked for their money back but speculated they were impatient with the investment.
Caldwell said they have evidence that shows he truly believed the bonds sold were legitimate, but the pastor and attorney would not comment about Smith, who is the other suspect in the case.
"All along the process, I had legal counsel," Caldwell said. "At no point was I doing this just willy-nilly. Everything that was done was done in accordance with that counsel. Unfortunately, we are where we are today."
That’s something many of his church members also firmly believe.
“He’s a man of integrity, and we believe the truth will come out,” said one church member who attended the news conference.
“I don’t believe the allegations are true,” said another. “I know Kirbyjon Caldwell. He’s an honest and ethical man.”
Smith and Caldwell are charged with six counts of wire fraud, four counts of money laundering and one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Caldwell is the pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church, a 14,000-member megachurch in Windsor Village in Houston where thousands will attend Easter Sunday services.
Caldwell not only plans to preach about the resurrection. He intends to rise above the serious federal charges he now faces.
“The resurrection’s not here yet,” Caldwell said Friday.
Caldwell has led his congregation for more than 30 years and, at times, served as a spiritual advisor to Presidents, including George W. Bush.
Caldwell is expected to turn himself into federal authorities in Shreveport, La., within the next week to 10 days. He and Smith face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Statement released Friday by Bishop Scott J. Jones:
Kirbyjon Caldwell has been an outstanding pastor and leader in our community for over 30 years. The United Methodist Church has high standards for the moral conduct of its clergy, and we recognize the seriousness of the charges against him. We will walk though this difficult situation with Rev. Caldwell and the Windsor Village congregation and keep them in our prayers. We have faith that the judicial process will find the truth.