Televangelist Ernest Angley Dead at 99

Televangelist Ernest Angley, pastor of Grace Cathedral in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, died last week at 99 years of age.

Controversy surrounded the prosperity gospel preaching faith healer.

A former church member told The Akron Beacon Journal that Angley said, “It’s against God’s will for anyone to have a child.” The newspaper reported pregnant church members were pressured to have abortions and men were pressured to get vasectomies. Angley also reportedly inspected genitals of male church members.

In 2004, Angley created a shell corporation in Aruba named Crestwind Aviation to acquire a Boeing 747SP jet, one of the largest televangelist jets in the world. Its only known rival would be an Airbus used by Eduardo Manalo’s Iglesia ni Cristo. Angley’s jet would be used a couple of times a year for mission trips to Africa.

Crestwind Aviation shows up in the Offshore Leaks Database, which raises an important question for Trinity Foundation investigators. Did Angley engage in international money laundering? Aruba was a hub for this activity.

In 2019, the Akron Beacon Journal reported, “Add in landing fees, maintenance and other related costs and, if Angley takes three trips a year averaging 16,000 miles round trip, the annual operating cost is about $2.16 million.” The jet was estimated to have cost $26 million when it was purchased. Before the jet was sent to an airplane graveyard, it cost $240,000 to fill the jet’s gas tanks.

Video of the jet, which Angley named Star Triple Seven, can be viewed on YouTube.

In his autobiography Hurry Friday! Angley wrote,”Thousands attend my services in other countries, acres and acres of people in one service. Thousands are saved, healed, delivered and baptized in the Holy Ghost. From all manner of death diseases they are delivered, including HIV/AIDS. Medical evidence proves they are healed.”

If Angley could really heal people of AIDS, why didn’t he perform healing services in hospitals?

Instead, Angley became comedy fodder for comedians, talk show hosts and documentaries as Angley would repeatedly say the word “heal” with a weird accent.

Sadly, Angley’s legacy is no laughing matter. Please join us in praying for the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of Angley’s victims, family, friends and church members.

 

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Trinity Foundation Selects New President

On April 16th, Trinity Foundation’s previous president Ole Anthony passed away at 82 years of age. We celebrated Ole’s life and legacy at a memorial service on May 1st. Ole’s obituary is available here.

Trinity Foundation board members selected Pete Evans to be the ministry’s new president during a May 13th board meeting.

(Photo: Pete Evans being interviewed by Inside Edition.)

In addition to serving as spokesperson for Trinity Foundation, Pete will also oversee investigations of religious fraud, theft and excess. Trinity Foundation will continue to serve as an advocate for low-cost housing.

Pastor JW Luman remains as vice president. Brian Kelcher was selected to serve as secretary and Glenn Evans as treasurer.

Edir Macedo’s Church Accused of Money Laundering in Angola

Four of Universal Church of the Kingdom of God’s leaders have been indicted in Angola, Africa, for money laundering.

The Brazil-based church is exporting the prosperity gospel into Africa much like America’s televangelists.

Church founder Edir Macedo is the owner of Brazilian TV Network RecordTV and a bank. Macedo is copying the lifestyle of America’s most notorious televangelists by owning his own fleet of jets and a helicopter.

Revista Forum reported, “Macedo’s right-hand man and former artistic vice president of Rede Record, Bishop Honorilton Gonçalves da Costa, was indicted” along with “Angolan Bishop Antonio Pedro Correia da Silva, former president of the church in the country, and pastors Valdir de Sousa dos Santos and Fernando Henriques Teixeira.”

Money laundering accusations have plagued the church for more than a decade.

In 2020, Rio de Janeiro’s Public Prosecutor’s Office and Brazil’s Financial Activities Control Board accused church leaders of laundering $1 billion – i.e. using fake companies to pass funds through different accounts abroad and then returning them in the form of loans.

In 2008, Edir Macedo was arrested but not convicted of embezzling $2 billion which was allegedly laundered.

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Investigating by Asking Questions: A Book Review of Warren Cole Smith’s Faith-Based Fraud

In the introduction to the book Faith-Based Fraud, author Warren Cole Smith, president of MinistryWatch, asks an important question: “Why do faith-based frauds continue to recur?”

Smith documents the massive increase in independent, non-denominational churches in America, the toxic spread of the prosperity gospel and a decline in financial transparency in both churches and ministries.

Smith notes that bad theology leads to corrupt behavior: “faith-based fraud is almost always predictable, and bad theology is that predictor.”

Throughout the book, Smith skillfully interweaves stories and commentary to explain how ponzi schemes operate and book authors buy their way onto The New York Times Bestseller List.

As a journalist at World Magazine, Smith investigated pastor Mark Driscoll’s use of church funds to purchase 11,000 copies of his book Real Marriage. Smith’s investigation of Todd Bentley’s alleged healings is also retold in Faith-Based Fraud.

Another story told is how the Foundation for New Era Philanthropy’s founder John Bennett fraudulently raised millions of dollars from Christian institutions by claiming anonymous donors would match their donations.

Smith interviewed Albert Meyer, the curious part-time professor at Spring Arbor College that uncovered Bennett’s fraud by asking questions. Smith writes, “And those questions amount to little more than, ‘Where did the money come from?’ and ‘Where did it go?’”

Christians should not be afraid to ask questions of religious leaders. Jesus set an example for us by questioning his disciples. After Judas arrived with the Roman soldiers to arrest the Messiah, Jesus said, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Faith-Based Fraud is available in paperback and Kindle digital format.

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Harvest Bible Chapel and Fellowship Church Receiving Millions in Government-Backed Loans

Megachurches and ministries are receiving a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans.

In January, Harvest Bible Chapel received a $2 million loan. Last year the scandal-ridden megachurch received $2,556,200.

In March, Ed Young Jr’s Fellowship Church received $1,520,345, the same amount it received in 2020.

In April, The Relentless Church, pastored by televangelist John Gray, received $1,062,500. The church received $1,250,000 last year.

But do these churches really need forgivable loans which amount to government aid? Recently Ed Young Jr. sold his beach house for a reported $5.5 million.

Gray purchased his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini in December 2018. A month later the Greenville News reported, “Gray was living in a $1.8 million home that was bought by the church in October. Church leaders said the Relentless-owned home was needed to attract a leader of Gray’s caliber.”

To assist small businesses and non-profit organizations in retaining employees during the Covid-19 pandemic, last year Congress passed the CARES Act.

The legislation authorized the Small Business Administration to offer forgiveable loans to small businesses and non-profit organizations so they could retain employees during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In December, Trinity Foundation reported, “At least $78.6 million in loans were given to religious TV networks, independent religious TV stations, TV preachers, and churches/media ministries with national TV programs.  The total would exceed $82 million if we include churches with 24/7 streaming channels in the same class as television.”

The forgivable loans have attracted an alarming number of scammers. Two cases involving religious organizations have received significant media attention. MinistryWatch reported that ASLAN International, a ministry in Florida, received an $8.4 million loan and then purchased a $3.7 million home. According to The Roys Report, Maryland pastor Rudolph Brooks Jr. purchased 39 cars after his church received a $1.5 million loan.

So far, $740 billion in PPP loans have been approved by the Small Business Administration.

2021 Paycheck Protection Program Loan Recipients

Associated Christian Television System – $185,026

Harvest Bible Chapel led by Dr. Jeff Bucknam – $2 million

Total Living International operates Total Living Network – $221,100

The Relentless Church led by televangelist John Gray – $1,062,500

Hillsong NYC LLC – $710, 877

Hillsong Events LLC – $207,919

Hillsong Channel LLC – $228,797

Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association led by televangelist Richard Roberts – $369,235

Churchome led by Pastor Judah Smith – $1,570,313

Fellowship Church led by televangelist Ed Young Jr. – $1,520,345

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Televangelist Todd Coontz Begins Prison Term for Tax Evasion

Televangelist William Todd Coontz is finally serving a five-year prison sentence for filing fraudulent tax returns and failing to pay his federal income taxes.

On April 3, 2019, WSOC-TV investigative producer Michael Stolp tweeted,”It appears Todd Coontz is officially a prison inmate, but maybe not for long. Per court documents he was scheduled to voluntarily surrender to the Bureau of Prisons yesterday. His attorneys filed a motion for release pending trial, which a 3 judge panel approved 2-1 yesterday.”

Coontz served one day and was then released. Coontz would appeal his tax conviction all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which denied the final appeal on February 22, 2021.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator reports that Coontz is now serving time at the Pensacola Federal Prison Camp, a minimum security prison in Pensacola, Florida. Coontz is scheduled for release on June 3, 2025.

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James MacDonald’s Walk in the Word Failed to Report Donations to IRS

In response to the infamous Jim Bakker/PTL scandal, Congress held a hearing in 1987. Pastor D. James Kennedy testified, “I would think that if a person is going to give money to something, that they have … a responsibility to learn where it is going.”

But how can donors make responsible decisions if charities and churches are not transparent about their finances?

James MacDonald’s ministry Walk in the Word (WITW) reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that it received $0 in donations for a three-year period encompassing July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2014. A Trinity Foundation investigation has determined the ministry failed to report donations from non-profit charitable foundations.

In 2012, WITW received $16,000 from Mitchell Swaback Charities and $11,563 from the National Christian Charitable Foundation.

In 2013, WITW received $2,000 from the Everett D & Geneva V Sugarbaker Foundation, $600 from the Fish Family Foundation of Maine, $10,000 from Mitchell Swaback Charities, $13,590 from the National Christian Charitable Foundation, and $5,000 from the Overbeck Family Foundation.

In 2014, the National Christian Charitable Foundation gave WITW $257,638, but it is difficult to determine if the money was given throughout the year or after the fiscal year ended on June 30th.

The failure to report at least $58,000 to the IRS should serve as a red flag for supporters of James MacDonald. Where did the money go?

For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014, WITW switched from filing the Form 990-EZ to the Form 990-N, which does not disclose total revenue or total expenses.

Although the Form 990-N is restricted to organizations normally receiving $50,000 or less in revenue, WITW used the form while receiving more than $270,000 from foundations in 2015.

More recently, the National Christian Charitable Foundation donated $82,696 in 2017.

The Same Name Game

When two separate organizations operate with the same name or similar names, it creates an opportunity for multiple bank accounts with the same name and opportunities for financial abuses. Trinity Foundation calls this “the same name game.”

While MacDonald served as pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel registered the tradename Walk in the Word Ministries and transferred more than $2 million in assets from WITW to the church.

It is possible that all the charitable foundation donations were transferred from WITW to the church. However, the 990-EZ and 990-N documents do not show such transfers.

Furthermore, many of the charitable foundations giving donations to WITW identify the recipient not just by name, but also by Employer Identification Number (EIN) 36-4218233. Clearly, their goal was to support the media ministry of MacDonald rather than the church.

Continue reading “James MacDonald’s Walk in the Word Failed to Report Donations to IRS”

Suspicious Financial Dealings and Sexual Abuse at Christian Camp

UPDATE: Response to Kanakuk Ministries Demand Letter to MinistryWatch
 

An attorney for Kanakuk Ministries has sent a letter to MinistryWatch demanding three articles be retracted. The demand letter provided a list of article statements which Kanakuk’s attorney claims are factually incorrect. Trinity Foundation would like to address one of the key claims: total compensation for White family members is “intentionally inflated.” (MinistryWatch response  to demand letter is posted online.)

Demand letter claim:

“In addition, you incorrectly calculated the compensation.  In 2017, Mr. White received $41,909 in total compensation.  That number includes Mr. White’s $36,844 salary.  Similarly, Mrs. White received $142,738 in total compensation.  The total compensation included her $39,864 salary.  You intentionally inflated the figures to support your false narrative.”

Trinity Foundation response:

Kanakuk Ministries president Joe White received more compensation than is reported in the demand letter. The compensation figures in this dispute are from page 7 (seen below) and page 57 of the Kanakuk Ministries Form 990 for the fiscal year ending August 31, 2018.

Page 7 reports that Joe White received $36,844 from Kanakuk Ministries and an additional $8,094 from Kanakuk Ministries or a related organization.

$36,844 + $8,094 = $44,938

Page 7 also reports that Debbie-Jo White received $39,864 in compensation from Kanakuk Ministries and $75,144 from Kanakuk Ministries or a related organization.

$39,864 + $75,144 = $115,008

This amount is $27,730 less than the compensation amount reported in the demand letter. Why was the additional $27,730 not reported on page 7?

Because the compensation on page 7 and page 57 do NOT match, Trinity Foundation concluded the compensation reported on page 57 was additional compensation not paid by Kanakuk Ministries, but instead compensation paid to the Whites from their personally-owned companies. In fact, the compensation on page 57 follows the reporting of rent payments from Kanakuk Ministries paid to companies owned by the Whites.


MinistryWatch recently reported, “An analysis of the financial statements by MinistryWatch, with the assistance of the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation, reveals what the Trinity Foundation calls a ‘suspicious’ pattern of self-dealing between Kanakuk and founder ‘Coach’ Joe White and his family.

Kanakuk Ministries is one of the largest Christian camps in the United States.  Each summer, it serves more than 20,000 children from around the country.  Its fiscal year 2017 revenue topped $35-million.”

Self-dealing occurs when non-profit executives operate a for-profit company which does business with the non-profit organization. This is not illegal unless the for-profit company excessively profits off the non-profit entity.

Self-dealing may represent a conflict of interest. Independent board members should carefully vet such transactions and only approve them if the costs are based on competitive, fair market prices, which Kanakuk Ministries claims to have done.

Kanakuk Ministries rented property from Kukorp LLC and K-Land One LLC of which both are owned by White family members. Kanakuk Ministries also provided a $310,000 loan to Kukorp.

The MinistryWatch investigation revealed, “If you add up all these numbers, Kanakuk Ministries paid the Whites, or entities wholly owned by the Whites, $572,132 in 2017.”

MinistryWatch has published two articles concerning sex crimes allegedly committed at Kanakuk Ministries.

* Website Documenting History of Sexual Abuse at Kanakuk Kamps Goes Live

* Knew of Abuser’s Behavior At Least 6 Years Before Finally Firing Him

MinistryWatch reported, “A civil complaint alleges that there were at least 57 victims, but the prosecutor in his case estimates that the real number could be in the ‘hundreds.'”

Kanakuk Ministries was not on our radar until Warren Cole Smith, president of MinistryWatch reached out with questions. In fact, that is how many of our investigations begin: A journalist, concerned donor, church member or employee calls or emails us with questions or tips.

According to an Association of Certified Fraud Examiners 2020 report, “43% of occupational frauds were detected by a tip.”

If you have a question or inside information about a ministry or church, please share it with us. We are especially interested in tips about fraud (which involves deception – and we are not accusing Kanakuk Ministries of fraud), theft, abusive behavior or excess (such as extravagant spending on homes, vehicles, clothing and private jets).

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Video Blog Investigates TV Preacher Jet Flights

 

Map showing ministry aircraft flights on January 2, 2021.

Have you ever wondered where televangelists travel on privately owned and ministry owned jets? We take a critical look at televangelist flights in the first episode of our new 30 minute long video blog Air Traffic Out-of-Control.

For almost twenty years, Trinity Foundation has tracked televangelist aircraft and we’ve discovered TV preachers often travel after the Christmas holiday season ends. January 2nd was a busy day for televangelist and ministry aircraft.

We will also show you how to search for aircraft in the Federal Aviation Administration registry and track televangelist aircraft on the website ADSB Exchange.

Our first episode also features sermon clips in which televangelists Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar and Jesse Duplantis talk about their use of jets. Duplantis claims that 99% of the time he travels alone. Is this good stewardship?

Our next episode of Air Traffic Out-of-Control will explore the operating costs of private aircraft. We are hoping to publish it in April.

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IRS Finalizes Tax on Non-Profit Organizations with Million Dollar Salaries and Parachute Payments

Correction:

Following the publication of this article, Trinity Foundation was informed that it included a factual error: An exemption existed in the tax code preventing ministers from being subject to the excise tax. After more research and visiting an IRS office, we have an update.

Before publication, we contacted an IRS spokesperson and were told the excise tax on excessive compensation applied to churches based on Section 3401. While asking follow-up questions, a misunderstanding emerged regarding the role of Section 3401.

Congress authored and adopted Section 3401 as part of the tax code. It defines terms such as wages and employer, while creating a list of exemptions from other tax rules and regulations for income earned from specific jobs. Definition number 9 exempts “services performed by a duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church in the exercise of his ministry.”

A church will be subject to the excise tax only if it pays more than $1 million in wages to an employee that is NOT a minister and NOT an independent contractor. Trinity Foundation has investigated several churches that have paid attorneys more than $1 million. However, attorneys typically work as independent contractors and pay their own taxes directly rather than being paid as a payroll tax by the church.

The excise tax on parachute payments will not be applied to ministers either.

We are sorry for all confusion created by the original article. The updated version of the article features includes a strikethrough of two sentences and three additions in bold text.


The IRS has finalized its rules on an excise tax to discourage excessive compensation at non-profit organizations. In its February 16th Bulletin, the IRS announced an update to section 4960 of the Internal Tax Code taxing non-profit organizations and churches that pay “covered employees” who are not ministers more than $1 million in wages or provide excessive parachute payments.

The Bulletin explains that a covered employee “is one of the five highest-compensated employees of the organization…” These individuals are typically listed on a Form 990 filed with the IRS. Churches, synagogues and mosques are exempt from filing the financial disclosure document.

When covered employees (non-ministers), who are often executives, receive more than $1 million in wages or excessive parachute payments, the non-profit  must file a Form 4720 Schedule N. Then the non-profit organization must pay a 21% tax on the excessive compensation.

In 2018, the IRS modified the Form 990, revealing if organizations have paid an excise tax on payments of more than $1 million. Excise payments are indicated on page 5, line 15 of the Form 990.

Trinity Foundation examined MinistryWatch’s list of highly paid compensated ministry leaders and determined that Inspirational Network, High Point University and Educational Media Foundation (K-Love) pay the excise tax.

Hillsdale College and Glory of Zion International (Chuck Pierce) so far do not report paying the excise tax even though both feature an executive receiving more than $1 million in compensation. This is not proof of wrongdoing because some compensation is exempt from the excise tax such as an organization carrying liability insurance on an employee. Pierce also serves as a minister and his compensation is not subject to the excise tax.

This excise tax penalizes excessive wages, not fees. If a pastor is paid to perform a wedding, the income is considered a fee and would not subject to an excise tax.

Besides excessive wages, the IRS also treats parachute payments as a form of excessive compensation.

After Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned from Liberty University last year, journalists reported the disgraced university administrator could receive $10.5 million in parachute payments.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Falwell is due his $1.25 million salary for two years, followed by a lump-sum payment of about $8 million, because of a clause in his contract that allowed him to resign with full pay if his responsibilities were curtailed.”

Trinity Foundation estimates Liberty University will pay a tax penalty of $1,530,383 on golden parachute payments of $10.5 million.

Future Form 990 filings by Liberty University will show whether or not an excise tax is paid on the parachute payments.

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