HOUSTON – Houston Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell used part of his Easter sermon to reiterate his innocence after accusations by federal authorities last week that he defrauded investors of millions of dollars in exchange for Chinese bonds that had no value.
Caldwell, the senior pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church in southwest Houston, and Gregory Alan Smith, a former broker and financial planner, face nine violations from the Securities and Exchange Commission out of Louisiana.
According to court documents, Caldwell and Smith duped at least 29 people into buying bonds for a total of $3.4 million between April 2013 and August 2014.
“As you know I’ve been in the news lately," Caldwell said with a chuckle to his congregation on Sunday. "And not to take it lightly. I respect the authorities.”
Caldwell told the church what he told the media on Friday – he has proof that the bonds are legitimate and refunds have been given to any investor who asked for one.
“When you’re on your way to a promised land, sometimes you have a painful pit stop, and this is just that – a pit stop,” Caldwell said, as the church cheered.
Caldwell’s attorney, Dan Cogdell, also spoke to the church, saying it was his honor to represent the pastor, and that his client will be proved innocent.
“I know the truth, and the truth will set him free,” Cogdell said.
Caldwell said there was one accusation that bothered him more than the others.
“The one that, frankly, perturbs me most is the (accusation) that I took advantage of people,” Caldwell said. “I’ve spent 36 years helping people, not hurting people.”
Caldwell ended his message by thanking the congregation for its support and he asked for continued prayers for his family.
Long-time members such as Vera Hawkins said she plans to stand by her pastor.
“I’m so glad he gave the message of resurrection, because resurrection is truly what today is all about, and truly what his ministry has been about,” Hawkins said.
“I think that my pastor is innocent,” said Kevin Morgan, a member of the church for more than 20 years. “God will show him the way out of all this mess.”
Caldwell has said he plans to turn himself into authorities in Louisiana this week.