Evangelist going on trial for tax evasion charges

WCNC News, South Carolina/March 14, 2007
By Anna Crowley

San Diego -- The onetime leader of the Inspiration Network, now based in Fort Mill, S.C., is in court next week in San Diego on tax evasion charges. Dr. Morris Cerullo raised the Inspiration Network up from the shambles it was in when owned by Jim Bakker's PTL Ministry.

Dr. Cerullo is head of Morris Cerullo World Evangelism. His style is unmistakable: faith healing, a mission, he says, to build up God's army. On his Web site, Morris Cerullo claims that 2007 will be your year for financial breakthrough, even as he prepares to face charges for lying about his own personal finances.

Cerullo is facing federal charges of tax evasion.

WCNC obtained a copy of the federal indictment filed against Cerullo in San Diego. In it are claims that Cerullo lied on his income tax returns, omitting more than $500,000.

This, just 15 years after Cerullo's ministry took over what was left of Jim Bakker's fallen PTL television network.

It became the Inspiration Network. Cerullo's son took over the operation, but Cerullo remained involved until 2005.

That's the same year Cerullo was indicted.

The Inspiration Network said that Morris Cerullo is no longer formally involved in the network, but Cerullo's show "Victory" airs weekdays on the network.

As for the charges, Cerullo's attorney says "Dr. Cerullo is extremely disappointed that the charges were filed and believes they are without merit (and) the charges will be proven false."

But, the federal prosecutor said that the money in question came from offerings at breakthrough rallies and speaking fees.The feds tells us Cerullo used that money as his own.

Cerullo will get his day in a San Diego court on March 20.

If convicted, Cerullo could spend up to nine years in prison and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Stay with WCNC.com for updates as Cerullo's trial gets under way.

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