An Internet evangelist based in northern Kentucky who preaches that the end of the world is near lived a lavish lifestyle off donations from his followers from around the world and didn’t pay taxes on much of the money, federal prosecutors said Monday in opening statements at the minister’s trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBride told jurors in federal court in Covington that Ronald Weinland of Union, Ky., used credit cards to have his ministry, the Church of God-Preparing for the Kingdom of God, pay for more than $500,000 in personal expenses.
“That in and of itself isn’t really good business practice, but it isn’t inherently illegal. The crime here is mostly evading income taxes,” McBride said.
Weinland’s attorney, Robert Webb of Louisville, told jurors his client was erroneously charged with five counts of tax evasion because federal agents fundamentally misunderstand the religious beliefs of Weinland’s ministry, known as the Church of God – Preparing for the Kingdom of God. The group believes that society is in its “final days,” Webb said, and that before Jesus Christ returns, the U.S. financial system will collapse. Weinland writes on his webpage that the beginning of the end of the world started on May 27.
“The only issue in this case is whether Mr. Weinland had criminal intent,” Webb said. “Did he have a black heart and a dark mind when he engaged in these transactions? No. He never deliberately tried the cheat the IRS or anyone else out of taxes.” [...]
McBride is expected to present evidence during the week-long trial that Weinland broke the law by failing to report a Swiss bank account from 2004 through 2007.
Webb said Weinland was just trying to diversify the assets of the church before the financial collapse he had prophesied. [...]
McBride said Weinland purchased diamonds and gold for his family with church money. Webb said those were not lavish gifts but liquid assets so his followers had something to barter with when the financial system crashed.
“The Weinlands carried the diamonds and gold with them when they traveled far abroad,” Webb said, “because they believe time was going to end – that Jesus Christ would return.”
Much of the government’s case appears to be built on credit card charges. McBride said Weinland commingled personal expenses and church expenses on his personal credit cards that were paid off in full each month from church assets. [...]
McBride said Weinland even used church money to pay the utilities and mortgage on his $381,000 home in the Triple Crown subdivision. Webb said that was a legitimate business expense because the church is operated out of a one-room office of the home and that the basement was converted into a mini warehouse to fill orders from for Weinland’s books.
McBride said Weinland was even more brazen when he began paying the utilities and mortgage for the condominium of his daughter, Audra Little. Church money was also used to purchase Weinland’s son, Jeremy, a car – and then ship it to Germany where the son lived, McBride said.
Other expenses questioned by prosecutors were for a security system at Little’s home and school tuition for Jeremy.
Ronald Weinland was at one time a minister in the Worldwide Church of God (WWG).
Founded by the late Herbert W. Armstrong the WWG was considered theologically a cult of Christianity. After the death of Armstrong, starting in the mid-1980′s the church underwent major changes in doctrine to the extend that it rejected its heretical teachings, and instead embraced orthodox Christianity.
During this process many former WWG ministers and followers formed numerous splinter groups.
Once such splinter group, the Church of God — PKG (Preparing for God’s Kingdom) was founded by Ronald Weinland.
In 2006, Ronald Weinland publicly declared he was one of the two witnesses of the Book of Revelation.
This claim was also posted on the website for Weinland’s church, which further declared “the return of Jesus Christ on May 27, 2012.”
On May 27, 2012, we entered the “Day of the Lord” spoken of in the Book of Joel. This “prophetic day” is a year in length and continues from Pentecost of 2012 (May 27th) to Pentecost 2013. Ronald Weinland, who is the pastor of God’s Church on earth, has also been appointed by the God of Abraham as His end-time prophet to foretell the final events leading up to Christ’s return.
Almost all false prophets adjust their prophecies when they predictions are not fulfilled — coming up with various convoluted explanations as to why God changed his mind, or why people misunderstood the true meaning of the prophecies.
Who believes what I have said as God’s prophet and end-time apostle to God’s Church? It is only those who support and/or are part of the physical organization of the Church of God – PKG. May 27, 2012, stated as the day of Christ’s return, is looked upon by all others as foolishness and proof that I have been wrong and indeed evidence I am not a true prophet of God. These same people did not believe this before and now they have only become more emboldened in their own spirit of “correctness.”
Those who believed it before are the ones who still believe it today! Most will respond to this by saying, “How can such a thing be?” “What do you mean by this?” That would be the mild response, as others will certainly be even more convicted that I have simply “lost it” altogether.