Guilty plea in fraud case; megachurch pastor awaits trial
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — A Louisiana investment adviser pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a $3.5 million case that also involves a minister who was once a spiritual adviser to former President George W. Bush.
Gregory Alan Smith, 55, of Shreveport, is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 11, U.S. Attorney David Joseph said in a news release.
The sentencing date is nine days after the scheduled start of trial for Kirbyjon Caldwell, who officiated at the 2008 wedding of Bush’s daughter Jenna and remains pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, a Houston megachurch.
Smith and Caldwell were charged last year on 12 counts each of wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Caldwell has pleaded not guilty.
Documents filed as part of Smith’s guilty plea say he used his position to convince investors to “invest” $3.5 million with him and Caldwell for bonds issued by the Chinese government before the Communist takeover in 1949, according to the news release.
“These bonds are not recognized by China’s current government and, accordingly, have no investment value,” it stated.
Smith received a bit more than $1 million of the total, using it to pay loans, buy luxury SUVs, make a down payment on vacation property, and maintain his lifestyle, prosecutors said.
Smith faces five to seven years in prison, a $1 million fine, restitution, forfeiture, and five years of supervised release, the news release said.
A United Methodist Church website described Caldwell’s church last year as one of the denomination’s largest churches and the largest that was predominantly African American, with 18,000 members.