Judge Reveals Televangelist Benny Hinn’s Dark Financial Secret

One of televangelist Benny Hinn’s financial secrets was revealed in a recent court ruling: The prosperity gospel is not working for Hinn. World Healing Center Church (WHCC), better known as Benny Hinn Ministries, has been struggling with debt for 15 years.

In an April 7th United States District Court ruling, Judge Alvin Hellerstein granted summary judgment on behalf of Mail America Communications Inc. which sued WHCC for breach of contract. Before the lawsuit was filed in September 2018, WHCC owed the direct mail company $2,993,221.74.

Judge Hellerstein also required WHCC to pay 4% interest on the unpaid balance and attorney’s fees.

The judge’s amended order provides insight into the finances of Hinn’s organization and confirms rumors that Trinity Foundation investigators have heard though the grapevine. Hellerstein wrote, “For nearly 15 years, Defendant had been falling behind its payment obligations, with over $5.6 million in arrears by early 2012.”

WHCC’s spending priorities are to pay ministry executives first and vendors last, according to an anonymous informant. Continue reading “Judge Reveals Televangelist Benny Hinn’s Dark Financial Secret”

Failure of Oversight: Finance Manager Steals $1.6 Million from Fellowship Church

The Crime

After pleading guilty to embezzling church funds, Lara Ford, former business manager and staff services manager at Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, has been sentenced to ten years in prison with the opportunity for early release after serving six months.

An August 26, 2019 updated police report indicated a “total loss of $1,377,14.76” … but the total continued to grow as the investigation continued. Ford’s attorney Lex Johnson told The Roys Report that more than $1.6 million was stolen.

According to the police report, Ford “made transfers to her own checking accounts once or twice a month for the past 7 to 8 years. The amounts were reportedly between $1500 and $1700.”

Ford used Automated Clearing House to transfer at least $363,834 from the church’s Allaso Ranch account and $324,313 from another church account to her personal bank accounts. The thefts were disguised as payments to vendors and refunds for children unable to attend the church camp.

Ford also stole cash from offerings and embezzled money from the church’s housing allowance account, which raises additional questions. According to the police report, Fellowship Church used Automatic Data Processing LLC (ADP) to manage “some of the church’s payroll, mainly the housing allowance about 30 employees receive.”

Is the clergy housing allowance being abused? Are non-clergy employees receiving housing allowances?

Continue reading “Failure of Oversight: Finance Manager Steals $1.6 Million from Fellowship Church”

Obituary: Ole Anthony, our president, pastor, friend, and longtime nemesis of televangelists, dead at 82

ole_anthony600Ole Anthony, 82, president of Dallas-based Trinity Foundation Inc. and a thorn in the side of “prosperity gospel” televangelists, died Friday, April 16, 2021.

He was known as a fierce critic of TV preachers like Robert Tilton, Benny Hinn and Jan and Paul Crouch, and was often seen in news interviews critiquing their lavish lifestyles.

Anthony also served as the founding elder of a small congregation that modeled itself on first-century Christianity in lifestyle and mission, meeting in homes and gathering often. In the 1990s the foundation began the Dallas Project, taking homeless people into the homes of members and encouraging other religious groups to do the same. The church continues to provide low-cost housing for needy families on the East Dallas block where many of the members live.

After finding that some of these desperate people had been persuaded to give money to TV preachers, Anthony started to look into the lifestyles and fraudulent behavior of local pastors like Tilton and W. V. Grant.

Trinity Foundation eventually obtained a private investigator license and gained a reputation as a valued source for investigative journalists. For more than 30 years Anthony was a frequently interviewed expert on religious broadcasting, consulted by major newspapers, national TV news programs and the international press. Our foundation continues to be a resource for those investigating religious fraud worldwide.

From the early 1990s through the 2000s, Anthony and Trinity Foundation were involved in high-profile investigations (and lawsuits) involving Tilton, Grant, Hinn and the Crouches as well as many other TV preachers and megachurch ministries. From 2007 to 2010 the foundation assisted the Senate Finance Committee in its national investigation of televangelist abuses.

Besides monitoring religious broadcasting, Anthony led daily Bible studies in the East Dallas Christian community that was formed out of a study group he led in the mid-1970s. The resulting community was small, never exceeding 60 members, but its influence was wide.

  Continue reading “Obituary: Ole Anthony, our president, pastor, friend, and longtime nemesis of televangelists, dead at 82”

Court Case Updates

The Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the courts from hearing numerous court cases. A year ago, Trinity Foundation shared a list of eight court cases we are monitoring. Our list is growing as more lawsuits have been filed against religious organizations.

In May 2020, we reported that a panel of judges upheld televangelist Todd Coontz’s conviction of tax evasion. Then justice got delayed again. Coontz appealed his conviction to the United States Supreme Court which finally denied his appeal on February 22, 2021.

In 2018, Mail America Communications sued Benny Hinn, alleging the televangelist’s World Healing Center Church owed the publisher almost $3 million. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 7, 2021.

National Outreach Foundation Inc. (NOFI), one of the few non-profit organizations to have its tax-exempt status revoked by the IRS in 2020, has sued the federal government in US Tax Court.

NOFI is operated by a husband-and-wife team with no additional independent board members or employees. Therefore, no oversight is available for the organization.

In 2017, NOFI generated $62,185,730 in revenue and spent only $425,125 in grants to charitable organizations. Therefore, less than 1% of revenue was spent on charity. If NOFI were a private charity it would be required to pay out at least 5% annually of its total assets.

 

Trinity Foundation Investigation: $78.6 Million in Government Guaranteed Loans Given to Televangelists

 

For months, Trinity Foundation has investigated televangelists receiving Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans. Our findings:

  • 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.
  • Trinity Broadcasting of Texas received a loan of $3.3 million even though its parent organization may have close to $500 million invested in securities.

Continue reading “Trinity Foundation Investigation: $78.6 Million in Government Guaranteed Loans Given to Televangelists”

Inside Edition Examines Vacation Use of Televangelist Jet

Daystar Television — An exposé of Marcus and Joni Lamb’s usage of Daystar Television Network’s Gulfstream V business jet aired this afternoon on Inside Edition with a little help from Trinity Foundation.  A small portion of our extensive database of televangelist ministry aircraft and flight log data came in handy.  The program showed a couple of Lamb family social media posts—one talking about “our amazing fam on Vacay” and another “memories made on their family beach vacation”.

In a brief, brisk walking interview with reporter Lisa Guerrero, Marcus Lamb told Lisa that yes, there was a vacation but that they had several meetings with ministers while there.  After being approved for a Corona Virus related paycheck protection (“PPP”) loan guaranteed by the US government, Daystar purchased the Gulfstream jet; however, Mr. Lamb stated that none of that PPP money went toward the purchase of the jet.

 

 

Investigative Reporters Examine Religious Fraud Across Latin America

An ambitious investigation of religious fraud cases shows that religious leaders are rarely prosecuted, and churches are increasingly participants in money laundering.

The Cross-Borders Data Project at Columbia University has partnered with journalists across Latin America to investigate religious fraud. Journalists examined more than 60 investigations and court cases where churches or religious leaders were suspected of committing crimes. Continue reading “Investigative Reporters Examine Religious Fraud Across Latin America”

Brazilian Church Accused of Money Laundering $1 Billion

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, founded by controversial pastor Edir Macedo, has been accused of money laundering again. The accusations come from Rio de Janeiro’s Public Prosecutor’s Office and Brazil’s Financial Activities Control Board.

According to Brazilian news site Poder360, in one fiscal year, May 2018 to April 2019, at least 5.9 billion reals–approximately $1.093 billion in US dollars–moved through church bank accounts in a questionable manner.

So far, Edir Macedo has not been accused of participating in the new money laundering allegations. Instead, his nephew Mauro Macedo and Rio de Janeiro mayor Marcelo Crivella, a bishop in the Universal Church, are allegedly linked to the financial crimes.

Universal Church officials deny the allegations which they claim are politically motivated attacks.

In 2008, Edir Macedo was arrested but not convicted of embezzling $2 billion. After Edir Macedo’s arrest, the Associated Press reported, “The church allegedly used fake companies to launder the money, moving the assets abroad and then returning them in the form of loans used by Macedo and his accomplices to buy businesses, prosecutors said.”

Taxing Jerry Falwell’s Golden Parachute Payments (severance over $10M)

 


After analyzing Jerry Falwell Jr’s Liberty University compensation, Trinity Foundation estimates tax penalties of $1,530,383 on golden parachute payments of $10.5 million.

Excessive compensation is a scandalously common practice in many religious institutions that needs to be carefully researched and exposed. Continue reading “Taxing Jerry Falwell’s Golden Parachute Payments (severance over $10M)”

Televangelist Morris Cerullo Dead at 88

After preaching for 70 years, faith healer and televangelist Morris Cerullo has died at 88 years of age from pneumonia.

In the months before he died, Cerullo’s final project, a theme park and hotel, opened to the public. The Legacy International Center cost $190 million and featured a small replica of the Temple’s wailing wall, catacombs with large murals of Bible stories, and water fountains.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported, “Cerullo spared no expense on the $14.5 million, 100-seat theater located in the project’s Welcome Center that will house most of the Legacy Center’s attractions, many of which were conceived with the help of cutting-edge technology.” Continue reading “Televangelist Morris Cerullo Dead at 88”