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Alum Kirbyjon Caldwell ’75 sentenced to six years in prison for fraud

Carleton alumnus and pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell ’75 was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud, according to the New York Times. Caldwell was a spiritual adviser to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as well as the leader of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, a predominantly African-American megachurch in Houston, Texas.

Caldwell and Louisiana-based investment adviser, Gregory Alan Smith, began a fraudulent investment scheme in 2013, as reported by the New York Times. They sold pre-Communist Chinese bonds, which are considered by the U.S. Securities and Trade Commission to be worthless outside of the memorabilia market. Most of the investors were elderly and retired. 

Investors wired money amounting to $3.5 million to bank accounts controlled by Caldwell. Caldwell received $900,000 of this, and used it to pay debts such as mortgages and credit card payments. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2018. 

In March, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, and Caldwell’s age (67), Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. deferred Caldwell’s report date to prison until June 22, as reported by UM News

After pleading guilty on March 11, 2020, Caldwell surrendered his clergy credentials, but remained on staff at Windsor Village, and is still preaching as a lay preacher. His wife, Rev. Suzette Caldwell, is interim senior pastor at Windsor Village.

Caldwell studied economics and government at Carleton, according to the Carleton Voice. He received an honorary degree from Carleton in 1999. He may lose this honor when the Commencement and Honorary Degrees Committee meets later this year, though the committee has never before rescinded an honorary degree, according to Kristin Bloomer, chair of the committee. 

After Carleton, Caldwell received his MBA at Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and worked as an investment banker in New York City for a few years before he felt called to Christian ministry. To fulfill this calling, he completed one more degree – a masters in divinity from Southern Methodist University. 

Over his 39 years as leader of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, the parish grew from 25 families to 18,000 members, as reported by UM News. Judge Hicks remarked on the many letters he received praising Caldwell for his church and community work.

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