CHARLOTTE – Bishop Anthony Jinwright, former leader at Charlotte’s Greater Salem church, and his wife, Harriett Jinwright, co-pastor at the church, will spend years in prison for cheating the government out of millions of dollars in taxes.
The Jinwrights led the nondenominational Greater Salem City of God on Salem Church Road, off Brookshire Boulevard in Charlotte and the Greater Salem City of God at the Lake, at 1760 Old Statesville Road, Cornelius.
U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney sentenced 54-year-old Anthony Jinwright on Dec. 8 to eight years and four months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
Whitney sentenced Harriett Jinwright, 51, to a little more than 6 years and 6 months in federal prison, also to be followed by three years of supervised release. The Jinwrights will serve their sentences without the possibility of parole.
Whitney also ordered the couple to pay more than $1 million to the federal and state governments.
Anthony Jinwright remains in local federal custody, where he has been held since his conviction, until the Federal Bureau of Prisons designates where he will serve his sentence.
Harriett Jinwright remains free on bond until she is required to report to prison in April, 2011.
The sentence followed two days of emotional testimony in a cramped federal courtroom in uptown Charlotte. So many came to support their former ministers that an overflow courtroom was opened so they could view the proceedings via television screens.
The first character witness who took the stand was former N.C. Sen. Robert Pittenger, who met Anthony Jinwright in the 1980s.
“He was real committed to the ministry and training young men to go out and preach the Gospel,” Pittenger said.
But under cross-examination by U.S. Attorney David Brown, Pittenger said he thought tax evasion was not only illegal but also morally wrong.
“Yes, I believe it is,” he said.
Other character witnesses described their time worshiping at Greater Salem and what the two ministers had done for their lives.
“My life was saved by this church,” Maurice Rogers said. “It was the words coming out of that man’s mouth.”
The sentence brought to an end the three-year federal investigation into allegations of tax evasion, tax perjury and mail fraud in connection with the Jinwrights’ failure to report income from the Greater Salem church, AL Jinwright Funeral Services in Charlotte, AL Jinwright Ministries and from speaking engagements at other churches.
Last year, a federal grand jury indicted the couple on six counts of tax evasion and filing false tax returns for 2002 through 2007. Anthony Jinwright also was charged with lying to federal agents and five counts of mail fraud.
The indictment accused the Jinwrights of vastly under-reporting their income during those years while enjoying a luxurious lifestyle, including numerous expensive automobiles.
Following a four-week trial in April and May, the jury deliberated for four hours before convicting Anthony Jinwright on one count of conspiracy, six counts of tax evasion and six counts of filing a false tax return. Harriett Jinwright was convicted on one count of conspiracy to defraud and three counts of tax evasion.