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Former pastor facing additional federal charges

The former pastor of First Baptist Church in Warrenton is in trouble with the federal government for the second time in less than a year.

A federal grand jury in Baltimore, Md., returned a multi-count indictment against Otis Ray Hope and his younger brother, Richard Wayne Hope last Thursday, according to court records. The brothers, formerly of Hagerstown, Maryland, are facing fraud charges stemming from a $1.75 million loan they acquired to purchase a ministry located in Hagerstown.

The 53-year Otis Ray Hope, who once served as pastor of a 2,000 member church known as Montrose Baptist in Rockville, Md., along with his brother, Richard, 51, of Denham, Louisiana, face a joint charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, according to a news release by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore. The brothers served as trustees, as well as president "at various times" of Shiloh Ministries of Hagerstown, Inc., prosecutors contend.

The two men also are facing charges of bank fraud, aiding and abetting and forfeiture.

Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, said the Hope brothers operated the Shiloh Conference and Retreat Center from August 2006 through March 2007. In September 2006, the Hope brothers applied and received a commercial loan on behalf of the Shiloh Company, which totaled $1.75 million. The loan was used to refinance the mortgage, as well as to release $108,835 which was being held in escrow by the previous lender for renovations following a fire in June 2006.

The indictment alleges that Otis and Richard Hope "falsely represented" to the lending institution that the Shiloh Conference and Retreat Center had reopened for business after the fire when, in fact, it had not reopened.

The prosecution contends that on March 2, 2007, a settlement amount of approximately $77,640 from the loan was wired to a bank account in the name of Kabel Company, LLC, at the Hancock Bank in Gulfport, Mississippi.

"Otis Ray Hope had opened the bank account in the name of the Kabel Company, LLC, on Dec. 4, 2006 and he was the only signatory on the account," court records show. "Subsequent to receiving the loan proceeds from the Bank of America, the Shiloh Company never made a loan payment. Ultimately, the Bank of America was forced to write-off virtually all the outstanding loan balance and accrued interest."

The Hope brothers "did unlawfully, knowingly and willingly conspire, combine, confederate and agree with each other to knowingly execute and attempt a scheme and artifice to defraud a financial institution and to obtain moneys, funds, credits, assets, securities and other property owned under or by the control of Bank of America," according to court records. The pair did what they did, prosecutors contend, based on fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises in violation of federal law.

They had not been arrested on the indictment charges as of last Friday, according to Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore. The brothers face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for bank fraud and an additional five years in prison for the conspiracy.

It marks the second time that Otis Ray Hope has been indicted by a grand jury in Baltimore. Last year, he was indicted on three counts of tax evasion and one count of subscribing to a false document, court records show.

He had been expected to stand trial on those charges last month, but the trial was postponed, Ms. Murphy said by telephone Friday. A new trial date has not yet been set, she said.

At the time of that indictment, Mr. Hope was serving as pastor of First Baptist Church of Warrenton. He had been there only a few months before the indictments were returned. Mr. Hope later resigned from the church, which resulted in a split by several members - a number of whom followed Mr. Hope to Thomson. He led that group's worship service only once before being told his services were no longer needed.

At that time, Mr. Hope and his family were living in Columbia County. The Hope family later moved back across the Savannah River to a home they owned in Aiken County.

Web posted on Thursday, April 16, 2009

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