The news. Paul Crouch died yesterday. He had quite the racket going, laughing all the way to the bank. This is over now. Here’s a quote from The New York Times obituary on him this morning (written by Emma G. Fitzsimmons):
In 2010, donations to TBN totaled $93 million. The Crouches [Paul and Jan] had two mansions in Newport Beach, Calif., and used corporate jets valued at $8 million and $49 million each.
Not houses, mansions. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? He became fabulously wealthy claiming to be an ambassador to someone who preached poverty (Jesus).
Details on the mansions. In 2012, The New York Times did a profile piece on Crouch’s Trinity Broadcasting Network, written by Erik Eckholm. It includes the following details about Paul and Jan and their Newport Beach mansions:
Mr. and Mrs. Crouch have his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community here [in Newport Beach], provided by the network using viewer donations and tax-free earnings. But Mrs. Crouch, 74, rarely sleeps in the $5.6 million house with tennis court and pool. She mostly lives in a large company house near Orlando, Fla., where she runs a side business, the Holy Land Experience theme park. Mr. Crouch, 78, has an adjacent home there too, but rarely visits. Its occupant is often a security guard who doubles as Mrs. Crouch’s chauffeur.
The twin sets of luxury homes only hint at the high living enjoyed by the Crouches, [...]
The granddaughter’s Judas kiss. According to the NYT, the Crouches’ granddaughter, Brittany Koper, once the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s financial director, now 27 years-old, has become a whistle-blower on her grandparents:
The granddaughter, Brittany Koper, [...] charges that TBN has spent millions of dollars in sweetheart deals [...]
“My job as finance director was to find ways to label extravagant personal spending as ministry expenses,” Ms. Koper said. This is one way, she said, the company avoids probing questions from the I.R.S. She said that the absence of outsiders on TBN’s governing board — currently consisting of Paul, Janice and Matthew Crouch — had led to a serious lack of accountability for spending.
Ms. Koper and the two other former TBN employees also said that dozens of staff members, including Ms. Koper, chauffeurs, sound engineers and others had been ordained as ministers by TBN. This allowed the network to avoid paying Social Security taxes on their salaries and made it easier to justify providing family members with rent-free houses, sometimes called “parsonages,” she said.
The company did not always succeed. Last year, officials in Orange County, Fla., turned down TBN’s application to register the adjacent lakefront houses in Windermere as parsonages, saying they served no religious purpose, The Orlando Sentinel reported. The designation would have resulted in religious exemptions and saved TBN roughly $50,000 in taxes a year.
Ms. Koper said that the company run by Matthew Crouch, 50, who is her uncle, had received an estimated $50 million in TBN money over the years, with little oversight, to finance religious film projects and television shows. TBN recouped only a small fraction of its loans and investments, sometimes forgiving large sums in return for broadcast rights of limited value, she said.
She also questioned the justification for providing rent-free houses for Matthew, now a TBN vice president, and his wife, Laurie, and separate houses for their young-adult sons in Costa Mesa, Calif., including one that Ms. Koper said was remodeled at company expense with wall-mounted Transformer robot figures costing several thousand dollars, a putting green and an indoor basketball court.
Jan’s omnipotence, her dogs, and Mr. Crouch’s Bentley. Other former employees also dished to the NYT reporter:
[A]ccording to a former employee, Troy Clements, [religious belief] seemed to justify almost any extravagance.
Mr. Clements, a former executive at Holy Land Experience, said that when employees questioned decisions like remodeling the cafe three times in six weeks, Mrs. Crouch said, “No one has told me ‘no’ for 30 years, and you’re not going to start now.”
Mr. Clements, who was sales and then personnel director at Holy Land, said that he resigned in frustration in 2008 and that working for Mrs. Crouch had often been “surreal.”
In 2008 and 2009, as Mrs. Crouch began remodeling Holy Land Experience, she rented adjacent rooms in the deluxe Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando — one for herself and one for her two beloved Maltese dogs and clothes, according to Mr. Clements and Ms. Koper. Mrs. Crouch rented the rooms for close to two years, they said.
Ms. Crouch was seldom without her little white dogs, pushing them in a pink stroller and keeping a costly motor home, originally purchased to serve as an office, for two years as an air-conditioned sanctuary for her pets, the two former employees said.
In Newport Beach, according to Ms. Koper, the elder Mr. Crouch sometimes traveled in a chauffeured Bentley, which TBN says is used to ferry television guests in proper style.
First-class “working dinners” are a way of life. In pending lawsuits, the Kopers say that Mr. Crouch, Mrs. Crouch and their son Matthew each ran up meal expenses of at least $300,000 per year. Mr. May, the TBN lawyer, said this was not accurate but did not offer other figures.
Den of thieves and Paul Crouch. My most vivid memory of the Southern California television station owner is of his hysterical (not in the funny sense) rants against the film, The Last Temptation of Christ, when it first came out. Perhaps it was the “den of thieves” scene that most pricked him (if he had a conscience at all).