Friday, February 17, 2012

$50 MILLION Embezzled by the Good Christians at Trinity Broadcast Network

Teri Sforza Register Columnist

The granddaughter of Trinity Broadcasting Network's Paul and Jan Crouch has accused the world's largest Christian broadcaster of unlawfully distributing charitable assets worth more than $50 million to the company's directors.

The charges are leveled in a federal lawsuit filed by Crouch granddaughter Brittany Koper last week against her former lawyers, who also do legal work for TBN.

“Observers have often wondered how the Crouches can afford multiple mansions on both coasts, a $50 million jet and chauffeurs,” said Tymothy MacLeod, Koper's attorney. “And finally, with the CFO coming forward, we have answers to those questions.”

Koper had served as chief financial officer, director of finance, corporate treasurer and director of human resources for Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, which does business as Trinity Broadcasting Network, according to the suit.

Koper's complaint is not directed against her grandparents or TBN – but against the two attorneys who handle some TBN legal work, and who once worked for Koper herself. She accuses them of professional negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and other transgressions in the suit.

Koper was using these attorneys for her personal affairs, and she went to them with her suspicions over the legality of the payments to TBN's directors, only to be told to shut up, return everything she had earned through TBN to the company and be gone, according to the suit.

Douglass S. Davert of Davert & Loe in Long Beach is one of the attorneys targeted in Koper's suit.

“Her assertions are outright fiction and wholly without merit,” he said. “The allegations are defamatory and to the extent they get printed we are going to defend ourselves vigorously.”

Davert said he couldn't comment fully on pending litigation, but that there's a great deal more going on here. To wit:

Koper and her husband were actually the ones doing the misdeeds, according to a suit filed by Davert & Loe in Orange County Superior Court in October and dismissed without settlement in January.

Though apparently crafted to avoid mentioning TBN, that suit accused Koper and her husband – both of whom worked for TBN and were on its board of directors – of forging documents and misappropriating funds to the tune of some $400,000.

Koper's lawyer says that suit was a preemptive strike, an attempt to discredit Koper, because Koper was going to blow the whistle.

Redemption Strategies Inc. – a corporation formed by Loe on Oct. 17 – sued the Kopers on Oct. 18, charging embezzlement, fraud, intentional misrepresentation and other misdeeds. At the time, Davert & Loe were still representing Koper, MacLeod said.

“It's kind of a sordid affair,” said MacLeod, Koper's attorney. “Many layers. But at the heart is the wrongful termination. She was terminated for insider whistle-blowing.”

MacLeod is getting to be something of an old hand at suing TBN: He represented Brian Dugger, a gay broadcast engineer who sued Trinity in 2009, claiming he was harassed and discriminated against by employees of the world's largest Christian broadcasting empire.

Paul Crouch Jr. was accused of taunting Dugger with pornography, saying TBN was no place for “fairies” and declaring that “Brian has a man-gina!”

In court paperwork, Crouch said those things never happened. The case was settled in 2010, but its terms were confidential.

Trinity Christian Center, a nonprofit in the eyes of Uncle Sam, does not have to pay taxes on its income. It reported revenues of $175.6 million, expenses of $193.7 million, and net assets of $827.6 million at the end of 2010, according to its tax returns.

Its highest-paid officer was Paul Crouch, with compensation of $400,000.

Its officers, directors and key employees included Paul and Jan Crouch, Paul Crouch Jr., Matthew Crouch, Koper and her husband, among others, according to Trinity's most recent tax returns. It has offices in Tustin and a studio in Costa Mesa.

MacLeod said that Koper is readying documentation regarding her charges and will submit a package to the Internal Revenue Service for its review.

We'll keep you posted on how all this shakes out.

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