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Former Warrenton pastor pleads guilty to federal charges

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - A South Carolina man who was once the head of a Christian retreat in western Maryland - and briefly served as the pastor of a church in Warren County - has pleaded guilty to tax evasion and bank fraud conspiracy.

The U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore said 53-year-old Otis Ray Hope, of Aiken, S.C., also pleaded guilty Thursday to filing a false application for exemption from federal taxes for the Shiloh Ministries Conference and Retreat Center.

The retreat operated in a former YMCA building from 2001 to 2006, when a fire damaged parts of the building. The tax-evasion charges involved an English-as-a-second-language program Rev. Hope ran as senior pastor of the Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville from 2001 to 2003.

He faces up to 38 years in prison at his sentencing Aug. 4.

Mr. Hope formerly served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Warrenton. He had been there only a few months when the indictments were returned. Mr. Hope later resigned from the church, and some members followed him to Thomson. He led that group's worship service only once.

At that time, Mr. Hope and his family lived in Columbia County and later moved to Aiken County.

Web posted on Thursday, June 11, 2009

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