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Former Hagerstown minister gets prison for tax evasion

August 04, 2009

BALTIMORE -- A former Hagerstown minister was sentenced Tuesday to more than three years in prison for tax evasion and subscribing to a false document.

U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson sentenced Otis Ray Hope, 53, now of Aiken, S.C., to 37 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Nickerson also ordered Hope to pay restitution of $2,422,320.

The charges against Hope were related to the filing of a federal tax exemption for Shiloh Ministries of Hagerstown and for conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with a $1.75 million loan Hope obtained on behalf of Shiloh Ministries, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein said Tuesday.

"Otis Ray Hope created false financial statements to defraud a bank into approving a $1.75 million loan, diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars of tuition revenue to pay his own personal expenses and cheated on his taxes," Rosenstein said in a news release.

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Hope was a principal partner in Shiloh Ministries, a nonprofit religious group that operated the Shiloh Conference and Retreat Center in the former YMCA building at 149 N. Potomac St. in Hagerstown.

In February 2007, Bank of America gave Shiloh a $1.75 million refinancing loan, according to court records.

The U.S. attorney's office said Hope and his alleged co-conspirator gave the bank false information about the conference and retreat center, claiming it reopened after a fire when it hadn't, and submitting fraudulent financial statements about the company's assets and monthly cash flow.

Otis Hope and his brother, Richard Wayne Hope, were indicted together in April on charges of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Charges against Richard Hope haven't been adjudicated, according to Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for Rosenstein.

Before coming to Hagerstown, Otis Hope was a pastor at Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md. He resigned in September 2002.

A Montrose associate pastor said at the time that the church was trying to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid school tuition.

Otis Hope was involved in a company called Maryland International Students Association (MISA) that recruited Korean families for an English as a Second Language program. The company was supposed to collect tuition and give it to the school, but didn't, the associate pastor said at the time.

After he left Hagerstown, Otis Hope became pastor at a church in Warrenton, Ga.

He resigned in October 2008.

Church deacons didn't know about the allegations connected to the indictment or an older U.S. Securities Exchange Commission complaint against Hope, Tony Mimbs, Warrenton's mayor and a church deacon, said last year.

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