Paul Crouch, the co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) who died last year, was investigated by the FBI in the 1990s for alleged involvement in drug and gun running as well as money laundering.

Although the FBI internal report calls Crouch an ‘anti-Semitic white supremacist,’ their investigation halted as soon as they determined he was a religious figure. TBN is the world’s largest televangelism network.

The investigation reportedly began with the Italian IRS, which determined that a TBN subsidiary was breaking that country’s laws. MuckRock has the details:

The first 20 or so pages of the Crouch document make it clear that the FBI and IRS were working closely with the Italian GDF, essentially their Internal Revenue Service, to fully investigate Crouch’s foreign and domestic holdings. According to the file, the FBI and GDF found that, among other things, CHLC, an apparent subsidiary of TBN, was conducting a false financial statements scam they called “pre-billing,” where in order to continue receiving loan money the organization would submit receipts for completed sales that were actually still a “work in progress, with no amount being due from the customer as of the date of the collateral report.”


A CHLC employee confirmed that such practices were occurring. (Screenshot) The Italian side of the investigation ended up centering on TBN’s potential violation of the Italian Mammi law, which according to the document prohibits foreign ownership of broadcasting companies in Italy. In addition, the GDF said it “believes the company maybe be acting as a front for foreign investors,” referring to TBN.

The sensational allegations against TBN include taking money from the Palestinian Liberation Organization and contacts with an East German spy. But were these reports based on real misdeeds, or was the FBI just pursuing wild accusations? It’s a fair question to ask because many of these charges are not unlike the various insane conspiracy theories about Muslims working in the US State Department that are propagated by people like Michele Bachmann.

If there was serious evidence for these allegations, why didn’t the FBI pursue the case at the time?

Underlining the ambivalent nature of the charges, TBN co-founder Earl Paulk was well-known for his opposition to racism and his acceptance of gays, but died in 2009 after years of allegations that he had molested children and conducted affairs.

MuckRock writer M.G. Lee suggests that until the FBI’s redactions are removed, we will never know what was really going on in Paul Crouch’s ministry. I am somewhat less sanguine about the chances of this story ever being resolved one way or the other.