Judge Reeves, may it please the Court, I ask it to consider my recommendation on the sentencing of False Prophet Ronald Weinland. I have been observing the activities of Weinland for the past several years and have interacted with those affected by his actions. The true penalty for Ronald Weinland’s crimes of falsely prophesying is death per Deuteronomy 18:22 in the Bible which Weinland claims to be able to teach. Fortunately for Weinland, those crimes are not within human jurisdiction and the imposition of penalty likely will be delayed for quite awhile. As it was for Herbert Armstrong, who died at the age of 90 while in his bedroom.
So the only thing I ask the Court to consider are those crimes for which you do have jurisdiction, which are the tax crimes for which he was convicted. The prosecution has charged him with $245,000 in evaded taxes. The defense is arguing for a lower figure because (1) the monies in Weinland’s Swiss bank account were allegedly held in trust for the church, and (2) Laura’s travel expenses to various congregations with her husband should not be charged as income. I say that we should give him the benefit of the doubt on these points as far as criminal but not civil charges. Maybe Ron did not spend any of the money deposited in the Swiss bank accounts and did eventually bring it all back to church bank accounts in the US. Perhaps he honestly believed that Laura’s travel expenses were not taxable income. I would not argue that would excuse him from paying the taxes and any civil penalties, but should not factor in on a criminal basis. This comes from Weinland’s most consistent critic who has publicly criticized him for over 4 years in Internet blogs and has been the recipient of death curses issued by Weinland. Removing the amounts for those items from the criminal basis would reduced his criminal tax liability to under $200,000 and put him at base offense level 16, for a sentence of 21-27 months.
The probation officer’s sentencing report calls for a 2-level enhancement for sophisticated means for having a Swiss bank account. Let’s give Ron the benefit of the doubt on that. Even though he took steps early on to hide the Swiss bank accounts from the general public by not sending out the customary tape recordings of sermons in 2002 and 2003 in which mentioned the accounts, he did disclose them to the IRS special agent on his initial interview.
The pre-sentencing report calls for a two-level enhancement for Obstruction of Justice. In my opinion, this should apply. While I did not hear Weinland’s testimony, I understand that he claimed to have a church scholarship program to justify paying his son’s educational expenses from church accounts. A scholarship program which benefited exactly one person. That doesn’t pass the smell test. Also, there was the non-cooperation of his daughter Audra in response to IRS summonses which required special court action in 2009 to compel her to comply. Do we believe that Weinland had absolutely nothing to do with her decision to disobey the summons? So I argue this two-level enhancement should apply, raising his offense level from 16 to 18.
The prosecution has called for another two-level enhancement either for Aggravated Role or for Abuse of Position of Trust.
With respect to Aggravated Role. I argue this would apply, as he directed the activities of his wife and daughter in this pattern of criminal behavior. Despite his devotion to the church, he filled out false income tax returns not only for himself and his wife, but also for his daughter.
With respect to Abuse of Position of Trust. As the prosecution points out, Weinland was indeed a position of trust to the IRS. As the only officer in his church corporation which was not required to make any filings with the government as to its financial activity, they trusted him to comply with the law. I ask that you use whatever authority you have to restrict Weinland from controlling the financial activities of any church organization, whether directly or indirectly via his ecclesiastical authority. Weinland should turn his church corporation over to others and resign as an officer, and there should be reliable external oversight of its financial activity.
Applying a two-level enhancement either for Aggravated Role or Abuse of Position of Trust raises the offense level from 18 to 20.
The defense has argued for a downward variance in Weinland’s sentence. The defense claims that Weinland’s failure to properly pay his taxes was because he was so heavily devoted on a daily basis to his ecclesiastical duties. I wonder how Weinland devoted his time to his church while on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise in October of 2007 — this immediately after having called on his members to support his evangelism in the advance of the Great Tribulation he prophesied for the following year. How much time did he devote to his church while on a 2-day layover in Hawaii in late December of 2007? This was at a time during which according his own statements he had no members in Hawaii. How much time time did he devote to his church during a 2-day stay during January of 2008 at the 5-diamond Venetian Resort Hotel Casino? At that time he wasn’t even holding one of his elders conferences at that location. How devoted to the church is he while watching cable TV all day in his $381,000 home on a golf course? Cable TV is a luxury some of his members can’t afford after donating heavily to Weinland.
Weinland’s defense team has attempted to sway the court by dumping a massive filing of 169 letters of support from his members. Many of these letters cite being reimbursed by the church for performance of duties as elders. Others mention financial assistance to attend their holy days. They refer to “second tithe assistance” which is funded by the voluntary donations of other more fortunate members. Several mention the trinkets the Weinlands hand out to small children. I point out that these letters are written by sincere yet simple people who believe that Weinland speaks for God. These people continue to believe that despite two failed dates for Christ’s return (in September of 2011 and on Memorial Day weekend this year). I believe most PKG members to be honest yet deluded people.
But you haven’t heard from those affected by those honest yet deluded people, their friends and family. Many of whom are afraid to speak out in criticism of Weinland is doing and the affect he has on those deluded people for fear of being cut off from contact. Such as the teenage girl mourning the loss of attention from her father who is totally focused on Weinland and has damaged the financial prospects of his family irrevocably by donating their assets to him. Weinland’s own sister has been cut off by other nearby siblings for the simple offense of participating in my website to express dismay at the conviction of her brother.
When considering Weinland’s personal characteristics, I ask that you consider the following:
- Weinland claimed that he and his wife were the Witnesses foretold in Revelation chapter 11. Yet of all the powers attributed in the Bible to these Two Witnesses, his only exercise of those powers was calling for the deaths of those who criticize him. This death curse were issued, and reissued again. This curse was delivered in a deliberate fashion reading from a pre-written statement. Even as recently as May, I was issued another death curse as one of 7,000 “named” to die during the hour of Christ’s return.
- Weinland has failed to live up to his promises. In December of 2007, he promised that if the Great Tribulation prophesied to begin in April of 2008 did not materialize, that he would not change his prophecies. At the time he mocked those who did that sort of thing as in it for the paycheck. Again in March of 2008, he reiterated his promise, stating he would stop preaching in early June and by July of 2008 if nuclear weapons were not detonated he would admit to being a false prophet. Yet in June of 2008, he did exactly what he promised that he wouldn’t do, changing the prophesied return of Christ from September of 2011 to May of 2012. And now his “Present Truth” is that Christ will return in May of next year.
To date, Weinland has not exhibited any signs of remorse or that he accepts responsibility for his criminal actions. He had substantial unreported income even for tax year 2008 even after becoming aware of the criminal investigation. He has publicly stated that the church is paying for his legal defense. He has not repented before his church in any of his sermons. Instead, he has stated that he will not dignify criticisms of his actions with any kind of response. And privately has told his members not to read other sources about his misdeeds including mainstream newspapers. Or circulated the story that it’s just a misunderstanding about his Swiss bank account, with no mention of his profligate spending habits. Or allowed some to think that he is being persecuted because his church does not have permanent buildings. Anything to avoid the truth of his misdeeds.
I call for sentencing within the guidelines for offense level 20 with no downward variance. Consistent with this, I call for:
- A sentence of exactly 40 months. This is within the guideline range of 33 to 41 months for offense level 20. A 40-month sentence also carries an additional message to Weinland. In his theology, the number 40 is the number of judgment. For example, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 year, and it rained for 40 days and nights to create the flood for Noah. He often cites the death of Joseph Tkach, who died 40 weeks to the day after committing the apostasy that broke apart the church of God. (Weinland claims that Tkach’s death was the same hour of the day as the sermon, and continues to claim that despite proof that it is not true.)
- A substantial amount of restitution. When calculating the amount of restitution, please consider the direct costs by the government to try Weinland: The juror fees for the trial were several thousand dollars alone. Also consider that the jurors suffered expenses as their lives and lively hoods were disrupted during the trial. Then there were the costs of the other participants including the prosecution, the IRS special agent, and the other IRS personnel. Last but not least were the costs for Special Agent Palmisano to conduct the lengthy investigation begun over 4 years ago.
- A fine in the amount of $75,000. The guidelines for offense level 20 provide for fine in the range of $7,500 to $75,000. The fine imposed should be the maximum amount, considering the costs of incarcerating Weinland for 40 months.
- Three years of supervised release following Weinland’s release from prison, during which Weinland is not allowed to control church finances or in any manner use any ecclesiastical authority to influence the control of church finances.
In summary, I call for the Court to impose on False Prophet Ronald Weinland a prison sentence of at least 40-months followed by 3 years of supervision, a $75,000 fine, and a substantial charge for restitution. A substantial message of deterrence needs to be sent to Weinland and other in similar positions who could repeat these crimes.