TBN: Televangelists feuded over millions, motor home for dogs
The Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Orange County-based televangelist ministry that bills itself as the world’s largest Christian network, is embroiled in a legal battle involving allegations of massive financial fraud and lavish spending, including the purchase of a $100,000 motor home for family dogs.
Brittany Koper, a former high-ranking TBN official and the granddaughter of its co-founder, Paul Crouch Sr., was fired by the network in September after discovering “illegal financial schemes” amounting to tens of millions of dollars, according to a lawsuit filed last month in Orange County Superior Court.
“She blew the whistle and got terminated,” said attorney Tymothy MacLeod, who filed the suit on behalf of Joseph McVeigh, the uncle of Koper’s husband Michael Koper, who was himself a high-ranking TBN officer.
“Brittany has done the right thing. It’s admirable that someone on the inside of TBN has come forward and is revealing to the world exactly what is going on behind those closed doors,” MacLeod said. “No good deed goes unpunished at TBN.”
Network lawyers, for their part, alleged in a lawsuit last year that the Kopers used forged documents to embezzle funds to buy trucks, jewelry, a fishing boat, a motorcycle, a Lexus and life insurance, and gave McVeigh thousands of dollars without authorization.
The legal battle offers a rare glimpse into the private affairs of TBN, which is headquartered in an opulent compound near South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
The lawsuit alleges that Crouch Sr. obtained a $50-million “Global Express” luxury jet for personal use through a “sham loan,” and that TBN funds paid for a $100,000 motor home for dogs owned by his wife, director Janice Crouch.
Moreover, the suit claims, TBN bought residences across the country for its directors under the pretext that they were “guest homes” or “church parsonages.”
The properties include mansions used by the Crouch family in Newport Beach, side-by-side mansions in Windermere, Florida., and homes in Nashville, Miami, and Irving, Texas, the suit claims.
TBN directors received $300,000 to $500,000 in meal expenses and the use of chauffers, and oversaw “fraudulent donation and kickback schemes involving third party ‘ministries' ” the network controlled, the suit claims.
The directors also misused funds to cover up sexual scandals, the suit claims.
TBN has been the subject of controversy before. In 2010, the network settled a suit on confidential terms with a broadcast engineer who alleged he was discriminated against because he was gay. In another case, the network paid a $425,000 settlement to a former employee who said he had a homosexual encounter with televangelist Paul Crouch Sr., who denied the accusation.
Network preachers have been aggressive advocates of the “prosperity gospel,” the belief that God will bestow financial rewards on donors who give generously.
-- Christopher Goffard
Photo: Trinity Broadcasting Network at night. Credit: Geraldine Wilkins-Kasinga.
Photo: Frame grab of Jan and Paul Crouch on television. Credit: Don Kelsen.