Category Archives: Investigations

Feds Show New Willingness to Investigate Religious Fraud

For two straight days IRS investigators and postal inspectors have been carting away boxes of possible evidence of fraud from televangelist Benny Hinn’s headquarters in Grapevine, Texas.

Local Dallas media have pounced on the news story with reporters tweeting the latest sparse details.

Dallas Morning News: IRS investigators search televangelist Benny Hinn’s offices in Grapevine
WFAA: IRS raids televangelist Benny Hinn’s office in Grapevine

Here are five points worth thinking about regarding the Hinn story.

The IRS is showing a new willingness to investigate religious financial fraud.

The IRS and other federal agencies rarely investigated religious fraud during the Obama administration. In fact, the last time a televangelist was prosecuted by the IRS occurred during George W. Bush’s presidency. Mac Hammond’s case was  thrown out by the courts in November 2008 and the Obama administration failed to adopt new guidelines for church audits or to investigate numerous allegations of fraud uncovered by religious watchdog Trinity Foundation.

The investigation of Hinn could take years.

The most important religious fraud investigation conducted by the FBI and IRS during the Obama presidency resulted in the shutdown of Angel Food Ministries. On February 11, 2009, the FBI raided Angel Food Ministries in Monroe, Georgia.  An indictment of the food charity’s CEO was announced on December 2, 2011 — almost 34 months later.

Hinn will respond to the investigation by lawyering up.

We can expect Hinn to hire the best legal team money can buy. When Senator Grassley inquired into Hinn’s finances in 2007, Hinn responded by hiring two former heads of the IRS to defend him: Attorneys Fred Goldberg and Larry Gibbs. Goldberg is infamous for granting tax-exempt status to the Church of Scientology.

The case against Hinn will likely focus on allegations of tax evasion and mail fraud.

Although details of the search warrant have not yet been made public, IRS Special Agent Michael Moseley spoke to media gathered outside Hinn’s headquarters: “Primarily we investigate Title 26 which is tax evasion and general fraud against the government.”

The presence of postal inspectors during the raid indicates the U.S. Postal Service is looking for evidence of mail fraud. We can expect the inspectors to closely examine Hinn’s donor mail solicitations. As a historical note, televangelist Jim Bakker was convicted on eight counts of mail fraud among other charges.

Donations to Benny Hinn Ministries may have plummeted recently causing Hinn to pursue risky financial transactions to make up the gap in revenue and expenses.

After taking the reigns at Trinity Broadcasting Network, Matthew Crouch cancelled Hinn’s show on TBN, the world’s largest religious TV network. Donations may have plunged due to less TV exposure for Hinn.

Hinn is pursuing lucrative speaking engagements overseas and news media reported that Hinn was in France when the search warrant was served. Besides the U.S., Hinn is also scheduled to preach in the Ukraine, Mexico and Canada during the next 60 days.

Following the Clinton Foundation Money

In All the President’s Men, the famous movie about Watergate, informant Deep Throat tells Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, “Follow the money.” This pithy slogan quickly became the motto for investigative reporters looking into fraud.

With so many accusations being leveled at Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charity, The Clinton Foundation, it is time to do some investigating of our own. Does the foundation exaggerate its charity work? Let’s take a look.

By law the Clinton Foundation is required to file the Form 990 annually with the IRS. These financial disclosure documents are a matter of public record and may be downloaded from The Foundation Center’s 990 Finder.

On Twitter, the Clinton charity brags, “Fact: 87% of our spending goes directly to programs that improve people’s lives around the world.”

This claim is false. The actual amount is 79% for 2014 and 81% in 2013. We get these figures by dividing total program services expenses by total functional expenses.

2014:
Total Functional Expenses: $91,281,145
Total Program Services Expenses: $72,552,187

2013:
Total Functional Expenses: $84,684,494
Total Program Services Expenses: $68,308,811

In this graphic the Clinton Foundation claims that 8.6% percent of its spending in 2014 was for management and general expenses. Another misleading statistic. Instead 13% of total functional expenses  were for management and general expenses. ($12,010,365)

On a final note, some Americans might be surprised to learn the Clinton Foundation is generating huge profits. Line 19 on page one of the Form 990 shows “revenue minus expenses”.

2014 profit: $86,523,467
2013 profit: $63,158,275

What is the Clinton Foundation going to do with all that excess revenue?