Along with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and his wife, Jan, Paul Crouch founded the Trinity Broadcasting Network in 1973 with the simple goal of spreading Our Lord's message of mercy and love. Along with mobsters, Paul Crouch was involved in a "narcotics transfer of funds" according to a recently declassified FBI file.

Also: Along with fellow esteemed members of the religious right Oral Roberts and the Reverend Earl Paulk, as well as one other person named [redacted], Crouch was alleged to have received funds from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for the purpose of running guns.

What's crazy though is that nowhere in the 73-page document does the bureau lay out any connection linking Paul Crouch to God, or Jesus, or the Blessed Virgin Mary—or even St. Clare of Assisi, the patron saint of television (Look it up.), who seems like the best, most likely person for a televangelist to know. They may be in the redacted parts.

The Mafia, Narcotics Trafficking, and Money Laundering

The vast majority of the FBI's file pertains to their communications with the IRS and Italy's Guardia di Finanza (GDF), a law enforcement body that covers financial crimes, smuggling, and the drug trade.

The GDF had contacted U.S. authorities sometime around September 1997 regarding Teletevere S.r.l., a Rome-based broadcaster that began partnering with Trinity around that time and showing their tacky, pseudo-Christian fundraising programs. GDF was concerned that Teletevere might be acting as a front for foreign investors, or in violation of an Italian law forbidding majority foreign ownership of an Italian television company.

They were also exploring whether or not it was legal for someone to claim that they have healing powers on television and then ask for donations:

The FBI sent them a lot of leads, literally listed as "Lead 1", "Lead 2", and so on, all throughout their written communications.

Among those were a reports from their Omaha division that a phone number owned by Trinity Broadcasting Services was tied to a concurrent investigation into a boss in the Genovese crime family named Vincent Louis "Chin" Gigante. Gigante famously spent many years in and out of court pretending to meet the legal definition of insanity, with claims to schizophrenia, dementia, psychosis, and other brain problems.

While the material in the file is insufficient to fully make the case that Crouch or Trinity was in some way involved in these mafia-tied money laundering and narcotics trafficking activities, it is certainly intriguing that they were under suspicion at all. It's also interesting that this information merited passing on to the GDF:

(An airtel, like a teletype, by the way, was an old communications system used internally by the FBI; I didn't know either.)

The Palestinian Liberation Organization and Gun Running

Later on, in February of the next year, the FBI forwarded along information that Paul Crouch was the subject of "an IT-PLO investigation" (IT meaning International Terrorism) that began in 1987 based on reporting that Crouch, Reverend Earl Paulk, the founder of a Georgi-based megachurch, and Oral Roberts, a Methodist-Pentecostal televangelist and the founder of a university that bears his name, were all "anti-Semitic and white supremacists" who were paid to help the PLO run guns in their war on Israel.

The FBI appears to have dropped the case after four months—not because it proved to spurious, mind you—but because Crouch was determined to be "the head of a religious organization":

What makes this episode particularly fascinating is that another Trinity-owned phone number, among other things, popped up in the FBI's OKBOMB file and the bureau deemed all this worthy of passing on to Rome in late-1997 and early-1998 as well. It boggles the mind how Paul Crouch's televangelist empire could be involved in this, but it's in there.

Crouch, who died last November, was no stranger to controversy in his lifetime. There were the obvious sex scandals, but also critics of his "prosperity gospel," which more-or-less said that God would make his followers rich, and exposés on the Crouch family's disgusting, not terribly pious, wealth and the secrecy surrounding the donations given to their television ministry.

If there's any fire to the smoke here in Paul Crouch's FBI file, he's probably in hell right now.

[photo composite based off of images via TBN; other photos by the author; h/t MuckRock, MuckRock user/personage RobbyD, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.]

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