In different times, Janice Crouch, Brittany and Michael Koper and Paul Crouch

In different times, Janice Crouch, Brittany and Michael Koper and Paul Crouch

The former chief financial officer of Trinity Broadcasting, the nation’s largest Christian broadcasting network, has filed a lawsuit against her former company and its top bosses for allegedly threatening her with a loaded gun when she objected to “unlawful distributions” of $100 million to themselves and others.

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 29 by Brittany Koper, the granddaughter of TBN founder Paul Crouch Sr., who died last year, and her husband, Michael Koper, against Trinity Christian Center, International Christian Broadcasting, Matthew Crouch, Janice Crouch and John Casoria.

Brittany Koper was TBN’s CFO and treasurer until she was fired in 2011, about the same time her husband, who also worked at the network, was dismissed, the case claims.

Trinity Christian Center, based in Santa Ana, California, operates as Trinity Broadcasting Network, and Janice Crouch, a TBN senior vice president, is the widow of the founder. Her son, Matthew Crouch, is a TBN vice president. Casoria is TBN’s lawyer and Janice Crouch’s nephew.

The case, filed in U.S. District Court for the southern division of California, alleges Brittany Koper was wrongfully dismissed “in violation of the public policies of the state of California and of the United States of America.”

“Plaintiffs allege that such terminations were in retaliation for (a) plaintiffs’ refusal to participate in conduct within defendant Trinity Broadcasting made unlawful by the laws of California and the United States and (b) reporting such unlawful conduct to defendant Trinity Broadcasting’s president, board of directors, to senior executive defendant John Casoria, and to defendant Trinity Broadcasting’s IRS auditor.”

The filing alleges Brittany Koper was told she would need to participate “in numerous illegal schemes” that “involved the systematic diversion of defendant Trinity Broadcasting’s charitable assets through unlawful distributions to defendant Trinity Broadcasting’s directors through numerous channels.”

The complaint claims the amount of money involved “is on the order of $100 million.”

The Kopers allege they were threatened with arrest and prosecution if they tried to report their claims.

“When questioned about the termination, defendant Matthew Crouch began tapping the firearm he had brought to the meeting and asked plaintiff Brittany Koper what she thought would happen when she wrote a memo to the board critical of defendant Matthew Crouch’s financial improprieties. Defendant Matthew Crouch continued tapping the gun he was holding to ensure that plaintiff Brittany Koper recognized the lethal threat being made,” the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint says that in a meeting “in the secure and locked president’s conference room of TBN located in Tustin, Calif.,” the Kopers “were threatened with criminal prosecution, numerous civil lawsuits, and a loaded gun, all of which caused them to remain in the president’s conference room against their will.”

The Kopers “were fearful of these threats by defendants and did not feel they could leave the president’s conference room. In addition, defendant Matthew Crouch threatening plaintiff Michael Koper and plaintiff Brittany Koper with a loaded gun put them in fear that defendant Matthew Crouch would physically harm them.”

The lawsuit charges the Kopers were victims of “assault and false imprisonment.”

It also alleges conspiracy and seeks damages and attorneys’ fees.

An accompanying demand for a jury trial in which the details would be publicly revealed, was signed Jan. 29.

In an undated statement posted on the TBN website, the organization responded to “a recent round of news articles detailing accusations by former employees that TBN’s officers participated in financial misappropriation and extravagant living at the expense of the network’s donors.”

In the statement, TBN spokesman Colby May said the reports were based on discredited sources.

“The soundness and veracity of these stories are completely undermined when you realize that they depend almost exclusively upon accusations from individuals who admitted they had embezzled and misappropriated over $1 million from the network, and its companion ministry, International Christian Broadcasting,” May’s statement said. “And the most heartbreaking fact is that the wife of one of the central figures in that misappropriation is the granddaughter of TBN’s founders, Paul and Jan Crouch.”

The statement identifies that person as Brittany Koper, “who for a short time served as the head of TBN’s finance department, until she and husband Michael Koper, who had been in charge of TBN’s airtime sales, were fired after their embezzlement and financial misappropriation were discovered.”

The statement continued: “What the bulk of media stories don’t explain is that these individuals used lawsuits to contrive absurd allegations that trusted TBN officials had illegally funneled millions of dollars for their own use. Add to that the fabrications that Dr. and Mrs. Crouch were using ministry funds to buy jewelry, jets, mansions, and mobile homes for dogs, and you have all the ammunition for a stereotypical attack against an esteemed media ministry.”

May’s statement said the organization as “a nearly 40-year track record of sound financial and personal integrity by TBN and its founders.”

A report by CourthouseNews also notes there are allegations that Casoria is the senior manager of a company called Redemption Strategies, which “was formed for the sole purpose of maliciously prosecuting, and intimidating plaintiff Michael Koper and plaintiff Brittany Koper (as well as members of plaintiff Michael Koper’s family) in retaliation after the Kopers reported illegal conduct within defendant Trinity Broadcasting, including unlawful distributions.”

Top TBN officials, including Paul and Matthew Crouch, have publicly stated that God removes people who oppose TBN.

In a 2012 video, Matthew stated, “There have been a few attempts in the TBN history to upset TBN, to stop TBN. There have been a few fools in the 38, 39-year history coming up on 40 years, and you know what? Any attempt at stopping TBN, they have no idea who they’re actually pushing into the corner. You and mom get pushed in a corner, God help you. That’s a lesson I’ve learned from you.”

Paul added: “God help anyone who would try to get in the way of TBN, which was God’s plan. I have attended the funerals of at least two people who tried.”

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TheΒ  New York Times in 2012 reported the Kopers’ accusations and presented a look inside the “lavish TV ministry.”

“Mr. and Mrs. [Paul and Janice] Crouch have his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community here [Newport Beach, Calif.], provided by the network using viewer donations and tax-free earnings. But Mrs. Crouch, 74, rarely sleeps in the $5.6 million house with tennis court and pool. She mostly lives in a large company house near Orlando, Fla., where she runs a side business, the Holy Land Experience theme park. Mr. Crouch, 78, has an adjacent home there, too, but rarely visits. Its occupant is often a security guard who doubles as Mrs. Crouch’s chauffeur,” the report said.

“The twin sets of luxury homes only hint at the high living enjoyed by the Crouches, inspirational television personalities whose multitudes of stations and satellite signals reach millions of worshipers across the globe. Almost since they started in the 1970s, the couple have been criticized for secrecy about their use of donations, which totaled $93 million in 2010.”

The report said there are additional homes in Texas and Tennessee as well as corporate jets and “thousand dollar dinners with fine wines, paid with tax-exempt money.”

At the time, Brittany Koper said, “My job … was to find ways to label extravagant personal spending as ministry expenses.”

The report said there were allegations the senior Crouches “traveled in a chauffeured Bentley.”

The report pointedly noted that at the time the Kopers were living in the basement of his father’s home on Long Island, while Paul Crouch, an assistant, Matthew Crouch, and two pilots were nearing “the end of a six-week world tour in the largest company jet, visiting affiliates, taping programs and scouting new territory for evangelism in Rome, Dubai, Israel, Hong Kong and Hawaii.”

Some 10 years earlier, there were reports of attempted extortion and litigation over a claim of a homosexual affair involving Paul Crouch.

The story exploded into headlines when allegations were made that the second party in the alleged activity wrote about it and then said TBN could keep it from the public by buying the rights for $10 million.

TBN said then that Crouch denied all the claims.

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