Televangelist asks followers to buy him $65 million jet

May 21, 2015 4:47 PM by News Staff, Photo: Youtube

He's a pastor named Creflo Dollar who preaches the prosperity gospel: the more you give, the more you shall receive.

But the finances of the televangelist's 30,000-member church, World Changers Church International in College Park, Georgia, are under close scrutiny after Dollar asked his followers to buy him a $65 million private jet.

Dollar's sermons pack his 8,500-seat mega-church, and like any house of worship, the church is non-profit and tax-exempt, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

His ministry has prospered with satellite churches in at least a dozen states and hundreds of thousands of online followers. Dollar owns a multi-million dollar mansion and condo.

In March, his website asked the faithful to help buy him something else -- a $65 million Gulfstream G-650 jet -- the top of the line in luxury air travel.

One church member, Mary Jones, plans on answering the pastor's call even though she rides a bus 20 miles every Sunday to Dollar's church.

"We support our pastor. That's what we're here for. The work that he's doing, where the Lord has him traveling, he doesn't need a cheap airplane. He needs the best," Jones said.

But Dollar later took down the online request after it was criticized.

Former member Shamora Barnard was disgusted. She said Dollar's prosperity gospel is all "about him."

This isn't the first time Dollar's church has been under scrutiny. In 2007, the Senate Finance Committee investigated Dollar and five other televangelists for possible tax abuse, including Kenneth Copeland, whose ministry once owned nine planes and its own airport.

Investigators labeled Dollar the "least cooperative"

But in 2011, the Senate panel abandoned its investigation. Critics claimed it happened due to pressure from church groups.

Dollar declined CBS News' request for an interview, but a representative for the church sent a statement that read in part, "...all of the ministry's revenues go to 'charity' and/or ministry, with the exception of the salaries and benefits for some 400 employees ministry-wide."

Dollar also responded to his critics during a sermon.

"If I want to believe God for a $65 million plane, you cannot stop me. You can't stop me from dreaming, I'm going to dream until Jesus comes," Dollar said.

"In Creflo's church, there is no accountability. He runs it like a fiefdom," said Ole Anthony, president of the Trinity Foundation in Texas, a church fundraising watchdog group.

"The chairman of the board of Texas Instruments or AT&T can have a whole fleet of jets, but they're not begging for money from people and getting a tax write-off in order for them to establish such a lifestyle," Anthony added.

Dollar already has a private jet, but it's 30 years old and currently out of service.

Despite removing the fundraising campaign from his website, the pastor reportedly still plans to buy a new aircraft with donations.

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