Kirbyjon Caldwell, 67, and former pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church has begun his six-year prison sentence at a low-security federal prison in Beaumont. In January he pleaded guilty for collaborating with Gregory Alan Smith of Shreveport in a $3.5 million investment scheme. The scheme involved antique Chinese bonds and victimized more than 20 Louisiana residents who entrusted funds to Caldwell and Smith.
At the hearing, Caldwell’s lawyers provided evidence that he repaid his victims more than $4 million dollars. His prison sentence was deferred to June 22, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This experience has brought me to the valley of disgrace and dishonor. I’m ashamed of my actions,” Caldwell said before being sentenced.
Caldwell grew up in Houston and attended Carleton College in Minnesota. The pastor then went on to earn his MBA from the Wharton School of Business and worked as an investment banker in New York. He felt called to ministry, and enrolled at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, and later he became the pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in 1982.
At the time, he pastored only 25 families, but under his leadership the church grew to over 18,000 members, making it one of the largest churches in the denomination.
Caldwell was also close to former president George W. Bush, serving as his spiritual advisor and presided at the wedding of his daughter, Jenna Bush. In 2008, he made a high-profile endorsement for Barack Obama as President.
The circumstances leading to Caldwell’s prison sentence started in 2013. According to the court documents signed by Caldwell, Smith approached existing clients and acquaintances, promising rapid, high rates of return if they would invest in Chinese bonds to be sold in a deal put together by Caldwell.
In January, Village United released a statement regarding Caldwell’s sentence that reads in part:
“During today’s hearing, Caldwell expressed his profound remorse and accepted full responsibility for his actions. The court found that Caldwell made full restitution to all of the victims. Notably, restitution began prior to indictment and was completed before sentencing. 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.
Caldwell has expressed his deep remorse and has apologized on numerous occasions. According to Floyd LeBlanc, Chairman of The Windsor Village Church Family Personnel Committee, The Windsor Village Lay Leadership has acknowledged Caldwell’s full restitution and accepted his apology. “We look forward to more lives being changed and more destinies being shaped as The Windsor Village Church Family continues to fulfill its God-given mission, in Jesus’s Name, said LeBlanc. The Kingdom Building continues!”