Ripon congregation again shocked on heels of church-sale allegation - (click here for the previous story)
By MELANIE TURNER
RIPON — A minister accused of selling his congregation's church was arrested Friday and accused of another shady real estate deal — selling the church-owned house where he lived.
Police arrested the Rev. Randy Radic shortly before 8 a.m. after he left his fiancée's house on Van Dyken Way, Sgt. Ed Ormonde said.
Police said they learned this week that, in 2002, Radic allegedly forged documents to obtain the deed to the modest home where he has been living. County property records show the house was valued at $150,763 in 2004.
First Congregational Church members said they had assumed the house at 137 N. Elm Ave. belonged to the church.
It was the second shock this week. Earlier, Radic was charged with felony embezzlement on suspicion of selling the church for $525,000 without the congregation knowing.
First Congregational is the city's oldest church, built in 1917. Radic has been the pastor for 10 years.
He was booked Friday at San Joaquin County Jail. Bail was set at $1.5 million, an amount that reflects Radic's flight risk and the multiple charges, according to Ormonde.
Members of the church council could not be reached for comment Friday. The church has an average attendance of 30 people on Sunday.
People around town Friday had not yet heard of Radic's arrest. Some, however, still were stunned by the original news that the church itself had been sold.
"We were all shocked," said Dorothy Patterson, a crossing guard in Ripon for 43 years.
Patricia Chavez, who identified herself as a Christian, said she understands how it could happen.
"We're humans," she said. "Temptation is always there. … It's very hard not to fall into sin."
Chavez said she is praying for Radic and his family. Radic is divorced and has a daughter.
Ormonde said it's not surprising that the alleged theft of the house went undetected for years. The church council had no reason to check into it, he said. Radic was living there, rent free, he said.
Almost immediately after using forged documents to get the deed to the house, Radic started taking out home equity loans, Ormonde said.
"At first it was a small loan," he said. "Then a little bigger. Then a little bigger."
Radic took out loans of these approximate amounts: $15,000, $35,000, $60,000, $100,000 and $160,000, Ormonde said. By 2003, Radic filed for bankruptcy.
"Eventually, he couldn't keep up with the payments on the bigger loans, and the house went into foreclosure," Ormonde said.
When that happened, Radic sold the house on Dec. 1, 2004, to Lonni Ashlock Investments, Ormonde said.
Investment firm investigated
The Modesto-area company has had its own run-ins with the law. In July, prosecutors confirmed a criminal investigation into Ashlock's dealings.
According to 10 lawsuits filed in Stanislaus County, Ashlock and partner Ronald Buhler took advantage of families and ended up with their homes. Some suing Ashlock and Buhler claimed the men exploited faith, praying with people as they preyed on them.
In the Ripon case, Ashlock Investments is one of the victims, according to authorities.
"They told our detectives they've put about $30,000 into this investment already," Ormonde said. "They're going to be out that money."
Ashlock could not be reached for comment Friday.
Ashlock Investments took over the Elm Avenue property as part of a foreclosure avoidance procedure. Under an agreement between Ashlock Investments and Radic, the corporation assumed Radic's monthly debts and Radic was to move out by Dec. 1, Ormonde said.
After that, the company would fix up the house and put it up for sale to recoup the debt, he said.
"We think they're victims, just like everybody else that got mixed up with this guy," Ormonde said of Ashlock and Buhler. "We have no reason to believe that there's any wrongdoing on their part."
Radic is charged with two counts of four felonies: embezzlement, embezzlement under false pretenses, forgery and forgery of corporate documents, plus a white-collar crime enhancement.
He is due in court for a pretrial hearing at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 15.
"We're anticipating that there may be additional crimes, but we don't know what they are and we haven't been able to prove anything," Ormonde said.
He added that for a small, conservative town such as Ripon, where most people go to church, it's "an eye-opener."