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Owner of Shiloh Ministries indicted for tax evasion

August 21, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A federal indictment was handed up last week against the owner of a Christian retreat in Hagerstown after prosecutors alleged he failed to claim $843,410 in taxable income over three years.

Otis Ray Hope faces three counts of tax evasion and one count of subscribing to a false document, the indictment shows.

The indictment was filed Aug. 14 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

The Shiloh Conference and Retreat Center was a Christian retreat center, which hosted church groups over the weekends. The facility included a pool, rock climbing walls and putting greens, The Herald-Mail has reported.

On Tuesday morning, orange "condemned" signs were posted at the building at 149 N. Potomac St. The building was condemned as of May 2, 2008, according to the signs.

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The former Hagerstown YMCA building was sold to Shiloh Ministries of Hagerstown for $500,000, The Herald-Mail reported in January 2002.

Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation records available online show that Shiloh Ministries of Hagerstown still owns the 55,239 square-foot building.

According to the first count of the indictment, Hope evaded taxes for 2001 by signing and mailing a "false and fraudulent" tax return. On the tax return, Hope and his wife listed their joint taxable income for 2001 as $68,647, and owed $12,022. Prosecutors alleged that Hope knew their taxable income was actually $473,145 and that they owed $145,021 in taxes.

Count two of the indictment deals with the couple's 2002 tax return. That year, Hope claimed $46,179 in taxable income, thus owing $5,126. However, prosecutors allege the actual taxable income was $444,037 and that Hope owed $137,031.

In 2003, Hope filed a tax return claiming he had no taxable income. Prosecutors allege he actually had a taxable income of $41,054, and owed $5,079.

The last count of the indictment deals with the exemption from federal income tax for Shiloh Ministries of Hagerstown that Hope filed. He claimed in the exemption request that people did not have to pay for benefits and services from Shiloh, that Shiloh's financial support came from donations, offerings and tithes, and that the company conducted worship services.

However, prosecutors alleged in the indictment, Shiloh charged for the benefits, services and products it provided, its support came from rental fees and other charges, and Shiloh did not conduct worship services.

According to a 2008 announcement by the IRS, it revoked the 501 (c)(3) status of Shiloh Ministries.

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