As ex-megachurch leader Kirbyjon Caldwell reports to prison, wife says she ‘cried a river’
Suzette Caldwell, the wife of Kirbyjon Caldwell, who formerly led the 14,000 member Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Texas, says she “cried a river” as her husband began a six-year prison term for defrauding members of his church and other investors Tuesday.
“I want to encourage you, church family, to cry. I cried a river yesterday [June 22], and as you can see, I’m still crying,” she revealed in an emotional video message to the church, where she also serves as associate pastor.
“But we have to go forward. I want to encourage you to cry and shed the tears. Some of you are feeling sadness, I’m sure. Some of you are disappointed. Some of you are angry and your feelings matter."
Kirbyjon Caldwell, who served as a spiritual adviser to former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty in March 2020 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection to his role in a multimillion-dollar investment scheme that preyed on the elderly.
The former megachurch leader and Gregory Alan Smith, an investment adviser based in Shreveport, Louisiana, were charged with 13 counts, including conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to prosecutors, Smith and Caldwell raised around $3.5 million in historical Chinese bonds from 29 investors between 2013 to 2014 that carried no value outside the memorabilia market.
Both men reportedly tricked investors into believing that they were buying the bonds through a Shreveport-based company called Smith Financial Group LLC. The U.S. Department of Justice charged that the bonds were issued by the former Republic of China before losing power to the communist government in 1949.
In a going away video to his church family, Kirbyjon Caldwell said he and his lawyer were not aware that he was committing wire fraud.
“Over three years or so ago, I was indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. … Wire fraud is very inclusive [of a wide range of activities], obviously. I did not know I was committing wire fraud, neither did my attorney at the time, and that’s the way it goes,” the 67-year-old former church leader said.
Windsor Village issued a statement after their pastor’s sentencing in January stating that he was “remorseful” about the scheme and that all of his victims had been repaid.
“The court found that Caldwell made full restitution to all of the victims. Notable, restitution began prior to indictment and was completed before sentencing," the church said. "Many victims were paid over and above the amount that they invested. Voluntary restitution is virtually unheard of and extremely rare in these kinds of cases."
The church further noted that Caldwell was also removed as an ordained elder in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Kirbyjon Caldwell is currently staying at a satellite prison camp adjacent to the Beaumont low-security prison within the Beaumont Federal Correctional Complex in eastern Texas. These prison camps usually have dormitory housing, a relatively low staff-to-inmate ratio, and limited or no perimeter fencing, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The camps are work and program-oriented.
“He’s able to freely go in and out and move around. Where he is, they don’t have the bars and that kind of things — the doors that lock behind you as you are walking from one place to the next,” his wife explained. “As we were told by a gentleman that greeted us when we got there, they are free to come and go, but he just said, ‘but you can’t go home.’ And that was pretty sobering."
"So, church family, I want you to know something. I’m not pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell. And I will not try to be Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell," she added. "But I do want you to know that I’ve committed my life to serve you, this church family and this community.”
Her husband explained that even though he is going to prison, he still has hope in God and believes God is with him.
“I know how long I’m on the books to stay, but as you know, there are a few laws on the books of the United States Congress which will allow you to be released prior to the stated time. God is with me,” he told the church family.
“God will surely be with you. God has been doing a great job through Pastor Suzette and the leadership team. You can fully expect that to continue. I’ll be praying for you. You continue to pray for me. God’s not through with you, or me, or Windsor Village yet. This may sound strange, but the best is still yet to come."