SHREVEPORT, La. – Acting United States Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook announced that Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, 67, was sentenced today by United States District Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. to 72 months (6 years) in prison followed by 1 year of supervised release for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Caldwell was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $3,588,500, as well as a fine of $125,000.
“The defendants in this case abused the trust that the victims had placed in them,” stated Acting United States Attorney Van Hook. “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. This office will continue to investigate and prosecute those who scheme and prey upon the elderly and others.”
Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, the former senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, had previously obtained a master’s degree from the Wharton School of Business and worked in the financial industry. In the spring of 2013, Caldwell, through his co-defendant, Gregory Alan Smith, from Shreveport, approached Smith’s existing clients and acquaintances about an investment opportunity in historical Chinese bonds. Potential investors were told that they would be obtaining a partial ownership interest in the bonds and that they would receive exponential returns on their investments in a short period of time. Caldwell and Smith neglected to tell these individuals that historical Chinese bonds, bonds issued by the former Republic of China prior to losing power to the communist government in 1949, held no value. In fact, the bonds were considered by the Securities and Exchange Commission to be mere collectables with no value outside of the memorabilia market.
After hearing Smith’s fraudulent pitch, victim-investors who believed and trusted him agreed to invest in these bonds. These victims were provided with a “participation agreement” indicating that if the sale of the bonds failed to occur within a certain number of days, the invested funds would be returned within a defined period of time. They were
instructed to wire funds to various bank accounts held by or controlled by Caldwell. In total, in 2013 and 2014, approximately $3.5 million was “invested” in these bond deals.
The funds were then divided between Smith, Caldwell, and others. Caldwell personally received approximately $900,000. Caldwell used a portion of that money to pay down debt including personal loans, mortgages, and credit cards and maintain his lifestyle, among other things. The investors were told their funds were used to purchase bonds and pay for expenses incurred from selling or redeeming the bonds.
As time passed and victim-investors questioned why they had yet to receive the promised returns, Caldwell and Smith, through texts and emails, offered excuses as to why the deals had not yet closed, defended the legitimacy of the deals, and assured the investors that they would receive their promised returns. The victim-investors never received returns from these Chinese bonds.
Caldwell was ordered to report to the Bureau of Prisons on June 22, 2021.
The FBI conducted the investigation and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Seth D. Reeg and C. Mignonne Griffing prosecuted the case.