Televangelists Paul and Jan Crouch, founders of the religious Trinity Broadcasting Network are under attack by their granddaughter Brittany Koper, who recently filed court papers that include allegations of $50 million in financial faux pas at the world’s largest Christian broadcasting network.
Her suit was followed by another from a Koper in-law. Allegations include opulent spending at the network on items such as private jets, mansions in California, Tennessee and Florida and a $100,000 mobile home for Jan Crouch’s dogs, said an AP article.
The lawsuits came after Koper’s husband was accused by a debt collection company of embezzling more than $1 million from TBN. The debt collection company that filed the lawsuit later added the Crouches’ granddaughter and two of her in-laws as defendants.
Attorneys from both sides say they have contacted police and the Internal Revenue Service.
TBN has 78 satellites and more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates and owns seven other networks, as well as its headquarters in Costa Mesa in Orange County, an estate outside Nashville called Trinity Music City, USA and the Holy Land Experience, a Christian amusement park in Orlando.
The lawsuit attention comes at a bad time for TBN, which has seen viewer donations drop steeply during this economic downturn. TBN raked in $92 million in donations in 2010 and cleared $175 million in tax-free revenue, but its net income plummeted from nearly $60 million in 2006 to a loss of $18 million in 2010, the most recent year available. Donations fell by nearly $30 million in the same period – a hit the network blames on the bad economy, reports the AP story.
At the same time, Koper’s father — the eldest Crouch son — resigned abruptly as vice president and chief-of-staff late last year. The unexplained departure of Paul Crouch Jr. roughly coincided with his daughter’s legal battle and came just months after he launched iTBN, a project to expand the network’s online and mobile reach.
Ministry watchdogs have long questioned how TBN — which declared more than $800 million in net assets in 2010 — spends that wealth. TBN files reports with the IRS, but the Crouches run nearly two dozen other organizations that are harder to track and they operate extensively overseas, said Rusty Leonard, who founded Wall Watchers, an organization that monitors the financial transparency of church ministries to which its members donate.
Trinity owns about 30 full-power TV stations, and dozens of low-power TV stations. Any type of finding of fraud by the company’s founders/directors could result in license revocation proceedings, or certainly a slew of license challenges. TBN is currently the third largest over-the-air television station group in the country. Stations include:
Poughkeepsie – New York, N.Y. WTBY
Santa Ana – Los Angeles, CA KTBN-TV
LaSalle – Chicago, IL WWTO
Burlington, N.J. – Philadelphia WGTW-TV
Irving – Dallas – Fort Worth, TX KDTX-TV
Monroe – Atlanta, GA WHSG-TV
Seattle – Tacoma KTBW-TV
Miami – Fort Lauderdale WHFT
Canton – Cleveland – Akron, OH WDLI
Cocoa – Orlando – Daytona Beach, FL WHLV-TV
Portland, Oregon KNMT-TV
Bloomington – Indianapolis, IN WCLJ
Hendersonville – Nashville, TN WPGD-TV
Newark – Columbus, OH WSFJ-TV
Richmond, IN – Cincinnati WKOI
Gadsden – Birmingham, AL WTJP
Albuquerque – Santa Fe KNAT-TV
Oklahoma City KTBO-TV
Holly Springs, MS – Memphis WBUY-TV
Mobile, AL – Pensacola, FL WMPV
Montgomery – Selma, AL WMCF-TV