Crime & Courts

The preacher lived a life of luxury. But the feds just indicted him on tax fraud.

A former Charlotte preacher who wrote the book “Please Don’t Repo My Car” was indicted on tax charges Thursday.

William Todd Coontz enjoyed a life of luxury, federal prosecutors contend, by claiming as business expenses the $1.5 million condo he and his family lived in as their parsonage and the luxury vehicles they drove, including three BMWs, two Ferraris, a Maserati and a Land Rover.

He also claimed a Regal 2500 boat, 400 charges at movie theaters, $228,000 in clothing purchases and $140,000 in meals and other entertainment as business expenses with no proof the expenses were for business, according to a federal criminal bill of indictment returned by a grand jury in Charlotte on Thursday.

He spent $21,000 at designer jewelry store David Yurman and $14,000 at Diamonds Direct jewelry store, the indictment said.

The indictment charges the 50-year-old Coontz with three counts of failure to pay taxes and four counts of aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns. Coontz, who now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been ordered to appear on a summons in U.S. District Court in Charlotte.

“This is a classic example of ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ ” U.S. Attorney Jill Rose said in announcing the charges. “As a minister, Coontz preached about receiving and managing wealth, yet he failed to keep his own finances in order. Coontz will now receive a first-hand lesson in ‘rendering unto Caesar’ that which is due.”

Coontz was the minister of Rock Wealth International Ministries from 2010 to 2014, according to the indictment. He authored numerous books on faith and finances, also including “Breaking the Spirit of Debt” and “7 Most Common Money Mistakes ...  and How To Avoid Them.”

He also operated the for-profit companies Legacy Media and Coontz Investments and Insurance, according to the indictment.

Coontz “unequivocally asserts his innocence … and will vigorously defend himself against these charges,” his lawyer, Mark Foster of Charlotte, said in a statement. “Todd Coontz has always endeavored to follow the law and to be a good citizen, father, and minister. He trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS.

“We expect that after hearing all the evidence, a jury will fully vindicate Mr. Coontz by finding him not guilty of all charges,” Foster said.

The indictment accuses Coontz of a check-cashing scheme involving travel reimbursements for speaking appearances and for book sales.

Coontz regularly traveled to speak at various ministries that generally paid him a speaking fee and his travel expenses. The indictment said Coontz hid income from the IRS by claiming the travel as a business expense while using reimbursements as personal income.

To conceal the payments, Coontz told his travel assistant to have the ministries make the reimbursement checks payable to “Todd Coontz” and to send the checks to his personal address. Coontz then cashed the checks, the indictment said.

Coontz also told his travel assistant to bill the churches for a full fare first-class ticket, although the tickets cost “substantially less,” the indictment said.

He is accused of concealing and cashing 102 checks from 2010 through 2013 for travel reimbursements, speeches and books and other products totaling about $252,000. In 2014, he cashed 32 checks totaling about $105,500 that also were not reflected in his accounting records, the indictment said.

Coontz is accused of under-reporting his income on his tax returns by not including as income payments made by his corporations and ministry for his personal expenses. That included payments benefiting his family members and payments for meals and entertainment.

Coontz co-mingled personal and business money against his accountant’s advice, prosecutors said.

From 2000 to 2014, Coontz also is accused of filing delinquent U.S. income tax returns with the IRS. He “consistently failed” to make timely payments on the taxes he owed, despite receiving multiple letters and late notices from the IRS, according to the indictment.

The charge of failure to pay tax carries a maximum prison term of one year and a $100,000 fine, per count. The charge of aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns carries a maximum prison term of 3 years and a $250,000 fine, per count.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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