Senate audit critical of TV preacher Kenneth Copeland

WFAA News, Texas/January 7, 2011

Fort Worth - A United States Senate Finance Committee audit of Kenneth Copeland of Fort Worth and five other prominent televangelists was released late Thursday.

While none of the ministries was found to have violated federal tax rules, many of the findings are not favorable.

A News 8 investigation helped spawn the investigation.

In addition to the probe of Copeland, other televangelists also were investigated, including Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Randy and Paula White, Joyce Meyer and Eddie Long.

Of those, only Meyer and Hinn reportedly co-operated with the three year investigation led by Sen. Charles Grassley, (R) Iowa.

Grassley said Copeland and his wife Gloria were "not responsive" to the committee's request for information.

That was also the case with WFAA three years ago, when News 8 attempted to get answers about the apparent personal use of the$ 20 million ministry jet. Flight records obtained by News 8 told the story of multiple trips for what appeared to be private purposes to Hawaii, to an exotic game ranch in South Texas and to a ski resort in Colorado.

The Copelands declined to comment to News 8 during the 2007 investigation. Senate Finance Committee investigators looking into his ministry finances were also rejected, making a thorough audit next to impossible.

What the committee was able to uncover was an extravagant lifestyle featuring a $6 million mansion and an aircraft.

Auditors were able to determine that in 1995, 15 Copeland family members were on the church payroll, earning salaries totaling $1.5 million.

The Copelands' salaries then totaled more than $600,000.

The audit was able to determine that their $20 million jet was used for personal reasons including vacations and shopping trips.

The Copelands were also accused of operating for-profit businesses on church property. Also, Copeland allegedly received an estimated $2.1 million birthday gift from supporters urged to contribute to the cause.

Copeland is not accused of breaking the law, but Grassley is not done.

He's forming a commission to study the tax laws in hopes of tightening the rules and clamping down on potential abuse.

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