While I was away, I missed some important developments in the saga of “Dr.” Todd Coontz, the South Carolina-based televangelist I have written about previously. I put the “Dr.” in quotations because, although Mr. Coontz uses the honorific, there is no evidence he has a doctorate in any subject–he has an MS in Agriculture from Texas A&M University (Gig ’em, Aggies!).
In case you don’t remember “Dr.” Todd:
Coontz was the minister of Rock Wealth International Ministries from 2010 to 2014, according to the indictment. He authored numerous books on faith and finances, also including “Breaking the Spirit of Debt” and “7 Most Common Money Mistakes … and How To Avoid Them.”
He also operated the for-profit companies Legacy Media and Coontz Investments and Insurance, according to the indictment.
Specifically, “the indictment charges the 50-year-old Coontz with three counts of failure to pay taxes [perhaps that’s the triple favor] and four counts of aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns.”
I hadn’t realized he stopped being the “minister” at Rock Wealth in 2014. It seems he has relocated to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he runs the Dominion Family Worship Center. As far as I can tell, he’s still running Rock Wealth, but apparently his title there has changed. But I digress.
Some interesting details in the indictment:
William Todd Coontz enjoyed a life of luxury, federal prosecutors contend, by claiming as business expenses the $1.5 million condo he and his family lived in as their parsonage and the luxury vehicles they drove, including three BMWs, two Ferraris, a Maserati and a Land Rover.
He also claimed a Regal 2500 boat, 400 charges at movie theaters, $228,000 in clothing purchases and $140,000 in meals and other entertainment as business expenses with no proof the expenses were for business, according to a federal criminal bill of indictment returned by a grand jury in Charlotte on Thursday.
He spent $21,000 at designer jewelry store David Yurman and $14,000 at Diamonds Direct jewelry store, the indictment said. …
“This is a classic example of ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ ” U.S. Attorney Jill Rose said in announcing the charges. “As a minister, Coontz preached about receiving and managing wealth, yet he failed to keep his own finances in order. Coontz will now receive a first-hand lesson in ‘rendering unto Caesar’ that which is due.”
I recognize that prosecutors often employ some rhetorical flourishes when announcing indictments, but I have to disagree with Ms. Rose: As I have noted in previous posts, “Dr.” Todd has been pretty open about why he wants your money and what he’s going to do with it. Despite a few throwaway lines about giving to missionary funds, he basically promises to take your money and pray for you in return. Here’s what you get for a $1,000 donation:
As a treasured Partner, you also share in the anointing and financial mantle on Dr. Todd’s life as he agrees to faithfully pray for you, your family, and your finances on a daily basis.
Again, he gets $1,000 to further his “anointing and financial mantle, which apparently involves cars, boats, jewelry, clothing, and a lot of dinners and movies. You get prayers. One would hope he has enough integrity to say a half-hearted “bless my donors” prayer once in a while, but that might be too much to ask for.
Of course, the good preacher denies any wrongdoing:
Coontz “unequivocally asserts his innocence … and will vigorously defend himself against these charges,” his lawyer, Mark Foster of Charlotte, said in a statement. “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.
Blaming the accountants is a time-honored tactic when facing tax-evasion charges, but it doesn’t square with the facts of the case:
The indictment accuses Coontz of a check-cashing scheme involving travel reimbursements for speaking appearances and for book sales.
Coontz regularly traveled to speak at various ministries that generally paid him a speaking fee and his travel expenses. The indictment said Coontz hid income from the IRS by claiming the travel as a business expense while using reimbursements as personal income.
To conceal the payments, Coontz told his travel assistant to have the ministries make the reimbursement checks payable to “Todd Coontz” and to send the checks to his personal address. Coontz then cashed the checks, the indictment said.
Coontz also told his travel assistant to bill the churches for a full fare first-class ticket, although the tickets cost “substantially less,” the indictment said.
He is accused of concealing and cashing 102 checks from 2010 through 2013 for travel reimbursements, speeches and books and other products totaling about $252,000. In 2014, he cashed 32 checks totaling about $105,500 that also were not reflected in his accounting records, the indictment said.
Basically, Coontz was double-dipping: claiming business expenses as a deduction at the same time he was being reimbursed–at an inflated rate–for those same expenses; he then deposited the reimbursement checks in his personal accounts without declaring them as income. Sorry, but he can’t claim to be an expert in finance and investing and then say he’s shocked at illegal activities because “trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him.”
I’m not shocked, nor should anyone familiar with this smarmy leech. He’ll have his day in court, and he must be presumed innocent by the judge and jury, but if the government has a paper trail for the charges, he may have to live with “the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of others” from a prison cell.