Fifteen months after investigators uncovered a $35 million scheme involving the former publishers of Newsweek and The Christian Post, a Christian college, and a tech vendor, the accused parties have been convicted of money laundering, conspiracy, and fraud.
IBT Media’s former owner Etienne Uzac and Christian Media Corporation International’s former CEO William Anderson—who was also the CEO and publisher of its flagship site, The Christian Post—entered guilty pleas before the Manhattan district attorney last week.
Today, California-based Olivet University—represented by its president Tracy Davis—pleaded guilty to falsifying business records and engaging in conspiracy, and was fined $1.25 million, according to the DA’s press officer. Olivet’s board chair Andrew Lin, who was convicted of fraud, has been barred from leadership for the next two years.
While maintaining claims of their independence from each other, each of the entities and leaders has ties to controversial Korean pastor David Jang. Considered the “Second Coming Christ” by some followers, Jang’s expansive global network founded Olivet, The Christian Post, Christian Today, and the International Business Times, whose parent company bought Newsweek in 2013.
In the criminal scheme, as CT reported in 2018, the media companies and Olivet inflated their financial standing to secure $35 million in loans to purchase high-end computer servers. They instead obtained cheaper servers (or none at all) and used the loans for their own operations as well as transferring funds to each other, according to the Manhattan DA’s office.
The defendants pointed out that the loans they obtained were repaid in full—which posed a challenge for prosecutors to prove fraudulent intent if no money was lost. Ultimately, IBT Media and the now-defunct Christian Media Corporation (CMC) each had to pay $50,000. In December, CMC pleaded guilty to falsifying business records by providing fraudulent information in the scheme and criminal contempt over its response to a subpoena in the investigation.
“While we had hoped for a non-guilty decision, this misdemeanor resolution lets CMC put an end to this long and tiring process and move on,” CMC said in a statement to CT.
While the CMC and The Christian Post are separate legal entities, both were headquartered at the same Washington DC address and shared leadership. Former World Evangelical Alliance COO Christopher Chou, who was listed as the North American director of CMC, succeeded Anderson as CEO of The Christian Post. (The address for Olivet’s Washington DC campus is in the same complex as The Christian Post.)