Update: Todd Coontz Is “Shocked” to Find He Spent a Lot of Money on Himself

January 17, 2018

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!).

The preacher lived a life of luxury. But the feds just indicted him on tax fraud.

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.

 

 

 

 

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An Olive Branch for “Dr” Todd Coontz

June 28, 2011

I’ve been kind of hard on Todd Coontz, the ersatz “evangelist, businessman, entrepreneur, television host, financial teacher, philanthropist, best selling [sic] author”; at least “these are the words others use to describe DR. TODD COONTZ.”

As far as I can tell, “Dr” Todd has no doctorate; rather, he has an MS in Agriculture from Texas A&M University (maybe that’s the Aggie equivalent of a doctorate). But no matter. For almost twenty years, our friend Todd has “carefully embraced his lifetime assignment and passion to teach people how to Qualify, Receive, and Manage Wealth according to Deuteronomy 8:18.” I’m left wondering if words mean something different when they are capitalized, but then given the semi-illiterate content on Todd’s web site, I doubt it.

I realize that he is “in tremendous demand as one of the most knowledgeable & dynamic financial teachers of his generation,” so I won’t waste his valuable time by inviting him here for an interview. No, what I propose is much simpler: Given that Todd believes that sowing a faith seed (read: sending him money) will result in blessings untold, I would invite him to put his money where his mouth is, as it were. If he will send me $1000 post-haste, I promise him the following blessings:

1) Divine Protection. I promise that Todd will receive divine protection against his own conscience and will never be troubled by guilt or shame over his greed.
2) Triple Favor. The next time Todd decides to purchase an ice cream cone at Baskin-Robbins, he can order a single scoop, and I’ll pay for two extra scoops. That’s a much more concrete promise than any that Todd makes.
3) Supernatural Increase. I promise Todd that, with every $1000 he sends, God will give him supernatural increase. I’d tell him what that means, but then it wouldn’t be supernatural, would it?
4) Uncommon Health. Seems to me that an overweight guy Todd’s age probably has some health issues (diabetes, perhaps?). I promise him health that is uncommon to non-obese people his age. After all, he will reap what he sows.

So, Todd, if you’re out there, get in touch with me. I promise I’ll put that money to work doing as much of God’s work as you do. What have you got to lose, except $1000?


God’s Lottery and “Dr.” Coontz

May 6, 2011

I swear, I can’t go more than a day or two without seeing “Author/Financial Teacher” “Dr” Todd Coontz. Of course, that may be because my cable company has a crapload of religious channels, and “Dr” Todd is on most of them, begging the righteous to send him money. Heck, he’s even on Twitter. And, as I’ve written about before, there’s his semi-literate web site.

Last night while flipping through the channels I stumbled across a different RockWealth Ministries video from the one I was familiar with. It was the same Toddster, this time sporting a pinstriped suit and designer glasses (for some reason, he looks to me like the love-child of Jimmy Swaggart and Walter Sobchak). In his new video, he did something I’ve seen other religious charlatans do before: he said that he wasn’t asking just anyone for money, but he was speaking only to those who “reckuhnahzz” God’s spirit and know that He wants Todd to upgrade from an S-Class to a Bentley (OK, I made that last part up). But it’s an appeal to a sort of spiritual vanity: you are one of the special, chosen people who “gets” it, who knows and trusts God. And, of course, what does God want from His chosen few? He wants money for Todd. Skepticism is for chumps; only the most righteous will get out their Visa cards.

This isn’t too far off from something I’ve heard argued in behalf of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. The prophet taught that whatever God commands is right, no matter what it is. It is up to us to overcome our own pride and hesitation and do what He wants for us. When Joseph said this, he was, unlike Brother Coontz, not asking for money; no, he was propositioning nineteen-year-old Nancy Rigdon to be one of his plural wives. Of course, he expected her to keep their relationship a secret so that wicked people (such as his legal wife, Emma) would not thwart the plans of the Almighty. For some Mormon apologists, this is the ultimate test God has for us: conquer our consciences and do what we are told. If we can do this, we will have proven ourselves true disciples of God.

At this point in my life, I see a common thread between Dr. Todd and Brother Joseph: God wants you to give His servants the things they want, such as money and sex. Coming out and saying, “I would like more money” or “I’d like to have sex with more than one woman” is not as effective as suggesting that those who help them get sex and money are somehow more spiritual, more righteous, more deserving of blessings than the unwashed masses. It’s a seductive message, and it seems to work. It doesn’t hurt that Todd is promising “supernatural wealth transfer” to those who give to him: plant a seed, and you’ll reap financial rewards.

He seems to like this “seed” metaphor, and there are some unintentional sexual double-entendres going on around his web site. For example, he calls 2011 “The year of releasing!” I suppose that Joseph Smith could have called 1842 or 1843 years of releasing, as he managed to sow his seed with more than a few women. Of course, one difference is that Todd believes sowing seeds will “conceive” whereas Joseph Smith is known only to have conceived three children with his plural wives (though only one is well-documented).

One more thing that struck me in visiting the Toddinator’s web site. Check out these different levels of seed-giving:

Is it just me, or do these look awfully similar to these?

They say that the lottery is a tax on people who can’t do math. Maybe “Dr” Todd’s ministry is a lottery for the gullible. Only, if it were a real lottery, someone might actually win once in a while. Come to think of it, “Dr” Todd wins every time.


Update on “Dr.” Todd Coontz

February 1, 2011

A while back, I wrote about a particularly evil scam being perpetrated in the name of faith and religion (see “Shameless“). The scam works this way: Our friend “Dr.” Coontz appears on television in a prerecorded infomercial-style program, urging you to plant “seed faith” money to help spread the gospel, and in return, you’ll be blessed with an end to your financial problems. But you have to act quickly! The good doctor gives you a specific time frame within which you must call and pledge money, or you will not be eligible for the blessings.

I just received the following rather heartbreaking comment on my blog that explains further how the scam works:

I am one of those naive people that believe that if I gave money ($100), God would get me out of debt and that all the blessings of God would get me out of the mess I was in; unfortunately, 6 hours after I gave $100, I received a telephone call from Dr Todd Coonitz saying that I did not take advantage of $130 seed faith pledge and that I was disobedient to God. I have tried to get my money back, but they refused to give back money donated to Rock Wealth.

I know, many people might say that this person should have known better and shouldn’t have been taken in so easily. But, as I said in my earlier post, this guy is preying on people’s faith, and a lot of people have a great deal of faith, both in God and in religious leaders. Most religious leaders I have known would not betray that kind of trust, but unfortunately many will. (And I will add the same disclaimer I did before: I gave 10%-plus of my gross income to a religion for 40 years, so I’m hardly one to claim a higher moral or intellectual position than my commenter.)

I will give Todd Coontz one thing: he is completely transparent in his goal, which is to collect money from you. He doesn’t make any grand claims of building churches, feeding the hungry, or sheltering the homeless. His only promise is simple: “Send me money, and your financial problems will disappear.”

Now we know what happens when you send him money: he tells you it wasn’t enough, that you didn’t have enough faith, didn’t obey absolutely. (For some reason, I know have that song from The Cure stuck in my head: “Whatever I do is never enough.”) This approach isn’t exclusive to Rock Wealth Ministries (it takes real balls, by the way, to call yourself a “wealth ministry.”) In my religion, if you didn’t get blessings, didn’t receive a witness of the Book of Mormon, or any number of things you didn’t achieve, it was your fault: you didn’t have enough faith, you weren’t diligent enough, you weren’t humble, submissive, and prayerful enough.

And so it is with Todd Coontz. I know it must be a character flaw, but I cannot imagine preying on people like that. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t live with myself. But he does, and quite comfortably, so it seems. And I’ll bet he sleeps well at night.

For another update on the good “doctor,” see “Tod’s Triple Favor?

Just a note for newcomers: I’ve started a new feature called “Ask a Mormon Apostate” for those who want fair and honest answers about Mormonism. If you have a question about Mormonism you’d like answered, please email me at runnertx@hotmail.com with the subject line: “Ask a Mormon Apostate.” Thanks!


Todd’s Triple Favor?

August 1, 2012

More on our buddy, “Dr” Todd Coontz. In case you don’t know who this guy is, he’s a shameless huckster from South Carolina who preys on the gullible to enrich himself. Here, for example, is what he promises in return for a donation of $1000:

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.

Elsewhere on his web site he tells us that we can achieve “financial freedom” and he will give us “7 keys to success [sic] investing.” You may ask, how’s that working for the good “doctor”?

“Dr” Todd’s full name is William Todd Coontz, and he resides with his wife, Dana, in Aiken, South Carolina. According to Google Maps, Rockwealth Ministries (Todd’s business) is located at 205 Loudoun Dr. Curiously, another business called Ministries Rockwealth is located at 324 Magnolia Lake Ct. It is a rather nice place. A third business, Coontz Investments and Insurance, is located at 3050 Whiskey Dr. A quick search of Aiken County court records finds the following:

2005: A $35,000 judgment against Todd and Dana Coontz.
2006: A debt-collection judgment against Todd Coontz for $4,184.52
2007: A debt-collection judgment against Todd Coontz for $18,945.81.
2007: A debt-collection judgment against Todd Coontz for an unspecified amount.
2008: A debt-collection judgment against Todd Coontz for $10,019.95.

Now, it is possible that the William Todd Coontz named in these suits isn’t “Dr” Todd Coontz, but W. Todd is the only Coontz I could find in the public records. If, by some remote possibility, this isn’t the good “doctor,” I apologize.

But how ironic is it that the guy who asking money from you so you can get wealthy is himself struggling to pay off debts?

Don’t worry, “Dr” Todd.” I’ll be happy to faithfully pray for you, your family, and your finances on a daily basis. Just send me $1000.


Another Victim

July 25, 2011

On another post, I received the following comment from a reader:

My wife of 51 plus years died of Cancer the day before christmas of 2009. I [had] done everything I could do to get the help she needed, including two trips to the Cancer Treatment centers in Tulsa, and in Eaden Il., 50 miles north of Chicago. I was watching a program on Insp Network, and the speaker this time was a Mike Murdock. I put a $1000.00 [donation] on my debit card. My wife passed away not long after that. They made believe I could get whatever I was praying for, so when my wife died I sent 3 or 4 e-mails and did not get any kind of response from them. So I have really have been burnt. I tried to get my money back, but they didn’t even answer me back. My oldest daughter lives with me now and we only got $10.00 to last to payday. I hope my $1000.00 done some good. My light, phone, and those things may get cut off before I can pay them. Pray for me and my daughter.

These are the kind of people that Todd Coontz and Mike Murdock take advantage of: the poor, the struggling, the sick. Not coincidentally, these are the people Jesus said we were supposed to take care of. That these “ministers” are preying upon such folks ought to tell us who they are working for; it’s not God.

When the rich young ruler asked Jesus, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Jesus told him that, in addition to keeping the commandments, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” Matthew 19:16, 21).

There are so many worthy charities that provide for the poor and the sick. Dr. Todd Coontz and Mike Murdock and their ilk are not poor and definitely are not worthy of anyone’s support. They take from the poor and the sick to enrich themselves in a twisted perversion of the teachings of Jesus. I’m afraid the only “good” that is done by giving to such evil predators is that we provide them with more money to purchase more television time to victimize more people.

They should be ashamed of themselves, though I’m sure they are not.


A Noninvasive Modality

June 10, 2011

Normally, I don’t comment on alternative “healing arts,” but sometimes their practitioners present a perfect combination of absurdity and pretentiousness that begs for a response.

In what amounts to a free advertisement, today’s Provo Daily Herald gives us this article:

Highland Woman Practices Ancient Healing Art

Apparently, one Linda Millington of Highland, Utah, has decided that, of all the “ancient Asian healing arts … the of [sic] art of Jin Shin Jyutsu … works best for her.”

I know some people believe they find relief for their infirmities in Asian healing arts, but I would not go to a healer who described her practice thus:

“It is a noninvasive modality which clears the emotional blockages that may present themselves physically in the body. … It harmonizes the energies throughout the body with the universal pulse.”

Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?

Then comes this gem:

“She listens to the pulse but not the sound of the blood flowing.”

To clarify, we’re told:

“I listen or feel through my hands for the depth, organ function and texture. … You can tell if the pulse is opened or closed, cold or hot.”

Given that the pulse is the expanding and contracting of the blood vessels, one would expect anyone could tell if the vessels are open or closed, but how is a pulse open or closed? or hot or cold?

Thus far, she hasn’t instilled a lot of confidence in her abilities to do much more than a garden-variety nurse’s assistant. But she presses on. After putting her clients in a relaxing, reclined position, she “places her hands under key points or meridians such as the back of the neck, waist or the shoulder. By listening with her hands she can tell is there is disharmony and seeks to bring it back into harmony. ‘My hands are acting as jumper cables to help the body energies realign,’ she said.”

We’re then treated to a history of this ancient healing art and told of Ms. Millington’s training as a massage therapist and her studies of Jin Shin Jyutsu in Japan and Thailand. “It was like learning a whole new language.” Indeed, one who speaks of noninvasive modalities and realigning the body energies is probably speaking a new language, at least one different from mine.

Up to this point, this woman comes across as merely pretentious and a little silly, but when she veers into dangerous irresponsibility, I figure I should say something:

“If I were to fall and hurt my back the first thing I would do is get to a Jin Shin Jitsu practitioner. … The sooner the better. It can’t hurt and it can get the spinal fluids moving again. Of course you have to use common sense.”

Um, yes, it can hurt to take an injured person to an ancient healing arts practitioner instead of the emergency room. I know, she said, “Of course you have to use common sense.” Given that she believes that she can clear emotional blockages by listening to the universal pulse with her hands, we have some idea of what she considers “common sense.”

The Herald is every bit as irresponsible as she is for printing this stuff. Would they advise their readers to head to a Benny Hinn or Todd Coontz revival–or even to get an LDS priesthood blessing–instead of the ER? Most likely not, but here they are telling people with back injuries(!) to go to someone who can get their spinal fluids moving.

To quote Tim Minchin:

“You know what they call ‘alternative medicine’ that’s been proved to work? Medicine.”


No longer carried about by the winds of doctrine

May 25, 2011

The last few years have been a real struggle for me spiritually, in that I have not been able to find a path in life that I know God wants me to take after leaving Mormonism. But I think my search is over, and my new spiritual guide is right here in Utah:

At least he’s cheaper than Todd Coontz.


Shameless

January 5, 2010

Years ago I attended a business conference in San Francisco. Our hotel was just off Union Square, and each day as we walked to the Moscone Center for the seminars and exposition we were accosted by numerous people begging for money. I’d seen a lot of begging when I was a missionary in Bolivia, but the aggressiveness and sheer numbers of beggars that week in San Francisco were startling. But one guy sat on the sidewalk, his back against a building, quietly sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup. On the ground next to him were a hat and a hand-lettered sign: “Nonaggressive Panhandler.” That was it. No hard-luck story of joblessness or hungry children, just a frank acknowledgment of what he was and what he was doing. It worked. People were putting money into his hat while they fended off other, more assertive beggars.

Sometimes the direct approach works, though most people aren’t going to say directly that they need money for, say drugs or alcohol or a G4 jet. That’s why most scams appeal either to people’s basest desires (greed or lust, for example) or, failing that, to loftier pursuits (some people who wouldn’t think of investing in a get-rich scheme are happy to send money to religious leaders). Generally, scams appealing to piety tend to have a longer shelf life than those that appeal to greed. Hence, Joseph Smith’s brief career finding treasure and lost items through his “seer stone” gave way to a more fruitful use of the stone to translate the word of God and build a religion.

Occasionally con artists come up with frauds where faith and greed intersect, and I have a hard time understanding why anyone would fall for them. We Mormons are well aware of the frauds built around the promises of God to believers. The Book of Mormon teaches repeatedly that “inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land” (2 Nephi 1:9, 20,31; see also Alma 48: 15, 25; Mosiah 2:22-31, among others), and church members have taken this promise to heart. We’ve heard of investment “opportunities” where people had to have a temple recommend (i.e., be in good standing in the LDS church) to be allowed to participate, or where financial miracle-workers tout their church experience or BYU degrees (see, for example, Jeff Mowen’s case), or where someone claims revelation that will bring prosperity (the Salem Relief Mine comes to mind). I have a relative who lost almost everything he had to one of those temple-recommend frauds (it was even endorsed by a General Authority, so how could he lose?). I’ve never asked him about it, but I wonder what it was that made him fall for such an obvious fraud?

But then this morning I saw something on television that made my jaw drop for its sheer shamelessness. Some guy calling himself “Dr” Todd Coontz has started Rockwealth International Ministries, whose aim, he says, is to help believers “sow seeds” and reap a “financial harvest.” And by sowing a seed, he means “giving money to Todd Coontz.” The harvest, by contrast, is pretty nebulous. For a mere $1000 annual donation, you get the following “4 Miracle Harvest That Are [sic] Guaranteed In Scripture”:

1) Divine Protection (Mal. 3:10, 11)
2) Triple Favor (Luke 2:52)
3) Supernatural Increase (Deut. 8:18)
4) Uncommon Health (Isa. 53:5)

But if those amazing promises aren’t enough for you, rest assured that you’ll also get monthly “in-depth” teachings (and a letter!) from the good doctor, access to “exclusive” parts of his web site, a “beautiful and durable Increase 3000 Partner card” good for 30% off Dr. Todd’s products, “periodic gift items and ministry tools,” your very own “Increase 3000 Partnership PAK,” and most importantly, “the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of others” (notably Todd Coontz’s).

On his infomercial this morning, Dr. Todd constantly asked for viewers to get out their credit cards and send him money, saying that if they called within a specific time window, they would receive blessings that any delay would cause them to forfeit. He reminded me of Oral Roberts’s famous plea for $8 million or God would call him home (which also worked). To no one’s surprise, Dr. Todd’s website sells a book by Oral himself.

Wandering around Dr. Todd’s web site, one finds a lot of entry forms for credit card information but almost nothing about where the money goes and what it is used for. The only direct statement of expense is a discussion of Feed the Hungry, a charitable ministry started by fellow “prosperity” preacher Lester Sumrall. Dr. Todd personally assures us that “your precious Seeds sown each month enables [sic] RockWealth International Ministries to join hands with Feed The Hungry and sow a substantial monthly Seed helping support this worthwhile effort.” I suspect Dr. Todd and I would disagree as to what constitutes “substantial.”

Dr. Todd’s program is quite ingenious: He asks for quite a bit of money and promises nothing but platitudes and prayers in return. It’s so transparently evil that it’s a wonder that anyone would take him up on his offer. But someone must be. Dr. Todd’s web site and TV broadcasts aren’t cheap, and even Benny Hinn himself is using Todd as a fundraiser.

So, my question is, who is sending money to this guy? I wonder how he sleeps at night knowing he is taking money from the weak and credulous, but then he’s a good reminder to me that there are soulless predators out there. And maybe I’m wrong for saying so, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for anyone stupid enough to get sucked into this kind of scam.

But just as I’m feeling smug and superior, I remember that for 40 years I sent ten percent of my income to a religion that promised little more than the good doctor promises. I was promised that I would prosper in the land, and the windows of heaven would be opened unto me. But if I needed financial assistance, I should go to my family, not my church, for help. And if I needed personal counseling (you know, the kind of thing clergy are supposed to do), I was supposed to go to my family lest I be guilty of “counselitis.”

And I didn’t even get a beautiful and durable card.