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.
While preaching the prosperity gospel, Hinn’s ministry has been reduced to a shell of its former self. In 1999, WHCC had almost 400 employees. By 2020, the ministry had about 25 employees. Over the past year Trinity Foundation investigators have regularly observed only a handful of cars in the ministry parking lot.
Since the late 1990s, WHCC has spent millions of dollars on legal fees but has rarely disclosed these costs to donors. While working on this article, Trinity Foundation discovered a 2014 court ruling requiring WHCC to pay the telemarketing firm InfoCision $1.8 million. After WHCC repeatedly defaulted on payments, InfoCision filed a new lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court alleging constructive fraud, intentional fraud and conspiracy.
What circumstances contributed to the nearly 15 years of debt? Here is a timeline:
April 2005 – Trinity Foundation filed a brief with the IRS challenging the “church” status of WHCC by claiming that Benny Hinn Ministries failed to meet any of the 14 Point Criteria the IRS uses to determine if an organization is a church. Most notably, WHCC did not have members. If the IRS had rejected church status for WHCC, the non-profit organization would have been required to file the Form 990 financial disclosure document that would publicly reveal Benny Hinn’s salary.
June 2005 – Trinity Foundation sent the same brief to Dean Zerbe, aide to Senator Charles Grassley, and requested the Senate Finance Committee investigate religious non-profit organizations suspected of abusing their tax exempt status.
November 2007 – The Senate Finance Committee publicly launched an inquiry into six TV ministries, including WHCC. Years later Hinn would admit during a TV broadcast that he spent $5 million fighting the Grassley inquiry.
February 2010 – Benny Hinn’s wife Suzanne Hinn filed for divorce. Benny and Suzanne would remarry in March 2013.
July 2010 – Benny Hinn was photographed in Rome, Italy, while walking, holding hands with Paula White. The National Enquirer published the photograph, which sparked numerous rumors.
January 2011 – The Senate Finance Committee decided not to issue subpoenas forcing televangelists to testify. The Senate published a series of letters revealing that WHCC hired two former IRS Commissioners to represent the ministry during the inquiry. Grassley asked the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) to set up a commission to study loopholes that were being exploited by TV ministries. Trinity Foundation complained to media that Senator Grassley had punted on the inquiry.
January 2011 – Christian TV producer and media consultant Phil Cooke tweeted, “TV EVANGELIST NEWS: Benny Hinn and Paula White are reportedly engaged. Prayer cloths are rejoicing everywhere.” WHCC claimed the tweet was defamatory and sued Cooke. After Hinn dismissed the lawsuit, Cooke responded, “Of course, since day one, my position was that the lawsuit was frivolous … In fact, if Benny had just called me and said my source was mistaken, I would have happily tweeted the corrected info. No need to sue.”
March 2014 – WHCC property in Aliso Viejo, California was transferred to Cal-Tex Acquisition IV, LLC which appears to be a shell corporation operating on Hinn’s behalf, according to a lawsuit later filed against WHCC by Infocision—a for-profit marketing company that raises money for numerous organizations. Donald B. Price, Vice-Chairman of Hinn’s ministry—WHCC, is listed as Cal-Tex Acquisition’s Chief Executive Officer.
November 2014 – In a court settlement WHCC agreed to pay InfoCision $1,801,338.31 after defaulting on payments.
January 2016 – Trinity Broadcasting Network, the nation’s largest Christian TV Network, stopped broadcasting Hinn’s program.
April 26-27, 2017 – IRS agents from the criminal investigation division of the IRS and postal inspectors raided Hinn’s headquarters in Grapevine, Texas. Federal agents removed 100s of boxes of documents during the investigation.
IRS Criminal Investigations Special Agent Michael Moseley told Dallas TV station WFAA, “We are primarily investigating Title 26, which is tax evasion and general fraud against the government.”
Charges have never been filed. Trinity Foundation speculates that Hinn may have hired a defense attorney to negotiate a pre-trial agreement to avoid prosecution and made a seven-figure tax payment to the IRS.
March 2017 – Benny Hinn’s TV program no longer aired on Daystar.
Fall 2017 – WHCC defaulted again on payments to InfoCision.
January 2018 – Benny’s nephew Costi Hinn co-authored a book Defining Deception: Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement which is critical of people claiming to be miracle workers and prophets.
February 2018 – InfoCision sued WHCC in Orange County Superior Court of California for constructive fraud, intentional fraud and conspiracy.
September 2018 – Mail America Communications sued WHCC for breach of contract.
July 2019 – Benny’s nephew Costi Hinn authored the book God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies.
April 2020 – WHCC received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan for $684,600. The ministry’s application revealed it intended to retain 25 employees.
May 2020 – Eministries Consulting received a $26,982 PPP loan and The Family Altar of the Air received a $14,750 PPP loan. Hinn associate Donald Price is an officer for both organizations and Trinity Foundation strongly suspects Hinn has a financial interest in Eministries, considering Hinn was paid a hefty consulting fee by a previous ministry supplier in the 2000s called Clarion Call Marketing. Eministries, in one of its PPP loans, lists Bookmark Publishing as a D/B/A which is odd because Benny Hinn Ministries (WHCC) also lists Bookmark Publishing as a D/B/A. In the early 90s Hinn was president of Celebration Publishers, a company that supplied Benny Hinn Ministries.
February 2021 – Eministries received a second PPP loan, this time for $20,828.
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