CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A judge sentenced a former Charlotte televangelist, found guilty of tax evasion and filing false tax returns, to five years in federal prison on Tuesday.
Channel 9 has investigated Todd Coontz for years.
During sentencing, the judge said Coontz acted in “arrogant and disrespectful ways” regarding the laws of this country and used a “long-term effort to minimize his income improperly and maximize his business expenses improperly.” The judge also called Coontz a scofflaw, which is someone who flouts the law.
Meanwhile, a group that fights religious fraud wants the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of Coontz's Rockwealth International Ministries.
The Trinity Foundation sent Channel 9 a 15-page report explaining why the IRS should revoke the status.
"He's been living the high life with exotic cars and exotic residences," Pete Evans, with The Trinity Foundation, said.
“Trinity Foundation has been investigating religious organizations for over 25 years and from our standpoint, this organization is a scam. It is not a real church,” the organization said.
The Secret Service started looking into Coontz and Rockwealth Ministries as a result of Channel 9's investigations that started more than six years ago.
Coontz promised financial miracles to people who sent money to his ministry.
Channel 9 found he was living in a million-dollar condo and had a Ferrari and Maserati titled in the name of the ministry. Prosecutors said Coontz also had three BMWs, two Ferraris, a Land Rover and a Regal 2500 boat.
On Tuesday, the judge said Coontz could serve his time in a prison near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The judge also ordered him to serve one year under court supervision after he is released from prison and to pay $755,669 in restitution.
Prosecutors claim Coontz's accountants tried to warn him about his spending, but that he ignored them.
Coontz hid receipts and iPads after he caught wind of the investigation surrounding his ministry, prosecutors said.
Coontz's lawyers said Rockwealth International did good work and spent $1.5 million to feed the hungry.
They said he was going through a hard time. His mother and two brothers died and he had gone through two divorces.
His second ex-wife provided the IRS with more evidence against him.
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