WARRENTON, Ga. – The pastor of a Warren County church has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of tax evasion.
Otis Ray Hope, pastor of First Baptist Church of Warrenton, was indicted Aug. 14 by grand jurors in Baltimore on three counts of tax evasion and a count of subscribing to a false document, according to records obtained online from the United States District Court of Maryland.
The charges cover the years of 2001 and 2003. During part of that time, Dr. Hope served as senior pastor of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md.
Federal prosecutors contend Dr. Hope owes approximately $300,000 in back taxes after incorrectly reporting his income.
The fourth count covers tax exemption documents for Shiloh Ministries of Hagerstown, Inc., which was operated by Dr. Hope.
Dr. Hope, who has served as pastor of the church in Warrenton for the past six months, denies each of the allegations.
In an interview with The McDuffie Mirror newspaper, Dr. Hope said the board of deacons and the church congregation has been made aware of the charges. He said he first informed the 12-member board of deacons about the indictment a few weeks ago. It wasn’t until Wednesday night that he decided to tell members of the church.
“I was first made aware of all of this in a telephone conversation that I had with my son, who still lives in Maryland,” said Dr. Hope, who now lives in Columbia County.
He said upon learning of the news that he immediately went to Baltimore to address the matter “head-on” even before he had been sent official documentation and ordered to appear at any court proceeding.
“I wanted to confront this right away,” he said.
Vernon Burkey, of Thomson, who serves as chairman of the board of deacons, said the church is standing behind the pastor.
“We voted that we would stand behind him,” said Mr. Burkey.