Falwell Jr. accused of steering Liberty University land deal to benefit personal trainer

Jerry Falwell, Jr. giving a speech at the Liberty University commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11, 2019. | Facebook/Liberty University

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. helped his personal trainer obtain former school property through personally approved real estate transactions, according to a report by Reuters.

In a story published Tuesday, Aram Roston and Joshua Schneyer of Reuters reported that Falwell began having Benjamin Crosswhite as a personal trainer in August 2011.

At present, Crosswhite owns an 18-acre fitness and sports facility that was once property owned by Liberty, due to real estate transactions signed by Falwell.

“When Falwell helped Crosswhite, he used the assets of Liberty, the tax-exempt university he has led since 2008,” Reuters reported.

“Among the largest Christian universities in the world, Liberty depends on hundreds of millions of dollars its students receive in federally backed student loans and Pell grants.”

Reuters went on to note that in 2016, Falwell signed a real estate deal transferring the property to Crosswhite, with the trainer not being required to put his own money toward the purchase price.

Liberty committed about $650,000 up front to lease back tennis courts on the site property for nine years and also offered Crosswhite financing, at a low interest rate, to cover the rest of the $1.2 million transaction, according to Reuters.

Roston and Schneyer drew from real estate records, internal university emails, and interviews to back up their claims about Falwell’s business dealings with Crosswhite.

The Christian Post reached out to Liberty University on Wednesday for a response to the Reuters story, however a spokesperson responded that they were declining to comment.

Liberty did provide a statement to Reuters, explaining that the sale of the facility to Crosswhite was of benefit to the University, as the property was a "drain on university resources." They added that while Falwell has been a "business mentor" to Crosswhite, he did not “abandon his fiduciary duties” to the University. 

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) stands with Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. after delivering keynote address at commencement in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., May 13, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Falwell has been a longtime supporter of President Donald Trump, being one of the first evangelical leaders in the nation to endorse him during the 2016 Republican primary season.

“I know that [Trump] only wants what's best for this country, and I know anything he does, it may not be ideologically ‘conservative,’ but it's going to be what's best for this country, and I can't imagine him doing anything that's not good for the country,” said Falwell in an interview with The Washington Post published in January.

Since Falwell announced his staunch support for President Trump, there has been an increasing focus on his business dealings and relationships.

In May, actor Tom Arnold revealed a secretly recorded phone conversation with Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which Cohen claims he helped Falwell after someone in Miami obtained racy photos of Falwell and his wife, Becki. Falwell said the story is false. 

In May 2018, Roston had an article published by BuzzFeed News detailing a 2017 lawsuit against Falwell and a pool attendant named Giancarlo Granda over a Miami, Florida, hostel business.

Filed in a Miami-Dade County-based court, the lawsuit accused Falwell and Granda of cutting the plaintiffs, a father and son, out of the business.

According to the suit, Granda was 21 when he first met the Falwells and once flew in their private jet. Falwell hoped to have Granda serve as a manager in the company, according to BuzzFeed.

“Falwell’s lawyer wrote [to BuzzFeed] that the evangelical and his family deny any wrongdoing and the allegations in the lawsuit,” reported Roston for BuzzFeed.

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