CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A televangelist and so-called “prosperity preacher” with ties to Charlotte has been indicted by a federal grand jury.
Pastor Todd Coontz is accused of failing to pay taxes and filing false tax returns, as well as hiding assets that were paid for by donations. The U.S. attorney said, “This is a classic example of, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’”
Channel 9 reporter Jim Bradley began investigating Coontz nearly five years ago.
As a cable TV evangelist, Coontz promised financial miracles for people who sent money to his ministry.
“You need to plant the $273 recovery seed. I’m only going to give you two to three minutes to respond,” Coontz once told his viewers.
Coontz posted videos on Twitter as recently as Wednesday, promising financial blessings to the faithful.
“Suddenly miracles are happening. I want to work with your faith for quick things, swift things,” Coontz said in the video.
In February 2013, a Channel 9 investigation revealed some of Coontz’s own “blessings,” which included a $1.38 million condo at a building on the corner of Providence and Sharon Amity roads. In the garage of that building was his Ferrari and his Maserati.
A federal criminal indictment on Thursday pointed to those exact same assests in Channel 9’s investigation.
The condo was purchased by Coontz’s Rockwealth Ministries as "parsonage" for him, according to the indictment. The court documents said the cars were also titled in the name of the ministry.
The U.S. Secret Service started looking into Coontz and Rockwealth Ministries as a result of the Channel 9 investigation.
The indictment revealed delinquent tax returns from as far back as 2000. From 2010-2013, Coontz owed more than $326,000 in taxes.
Investigators said he also hid his income from the Internal Revenue Service by cashing checks he received from churches and ministries for travel and speaking engagements and then claiming that same travel as business expenses.
The indictment also revealed he used business funds to pay for personal expenses, such as more than $227,000 for clothes, $140,000 at restaurants and more than 400 charges at movie theaters.
Coontz's defense attorney, Mark Foster, said the indictment makes allegations but isn't proof.
“He's otherwise is a good man,” Foster said. “He's tried to do the right thing all his life and he has no criminal record. We're going to fight this out.”
Foster said Coontz trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS.
Coontz has been ordered to appear in federal court in Charlotte.
Statement from Coontz’s attorney:
"William Todd Coontz has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Charlotte on several criminal tax charges. Coontz unequivocally asserts his innocence of these charges.
A grand jury is tasked only with determining whether there is probable cause to believe that a defendant has committed a federal crime. The government presents its evidence to the grand jury in secret and the defense cannot be present. Thus, the grand jury’s indictment of Coontz is not a determination of guilt -- it is merely a preliminary finding that is necessary before the federal government can prosecute someone.
The government has chosen to make a statement to the press about Mr. Coontz’s indictment. It must be remembered that Todd Coontz is presumed innocent. Todd Coontz has retained veteran federal criminal defense attorney Mark Foster to represent him in this case and will vigorously defend himself against these charges. Todd Coontz has always endeavored to follow the law and to be a good citizen, father and minister. He trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS.
We expect that after hearing all the evidence, a jury will fully vindicate Mr. Coontz by finding him not guilty of all charges.
- Mark Foster, Attorney at Law"
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