Monday, May 01, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor charged with loan fraud and tax evasion

The lead pastor at a Charlotte N.C. church was indicted Friday on nine federal charges that accuse him of tax evasion and making false statements to banks and federal officials.

John Henry Walker, senior pastor at Macedonia Baptist Church, is accused of underreporting his income between 1999 and 2003 by almost $550,000 and evading federal income taxes of more than $125,000 for those years, according to U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert.

Walker, 47, is charged with five counts of tax evasion, three counts of making false statements in connection with a bank loan and a single count of making false statements to federal agents.

An indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in Charlotte says that between rent-free housing in a church-owned residence, a base salary, a housing allowance, various bonuses and honorariums, paid vacations and other payments, Walker collected more than $900,000 from the church from 1998 through 2003. According to Shappert, when funds in the church's general account were not enough to pay Walker, he arranged to take money from the church's building fund account and from an account set up for the church's summer youth program.

Between 1999 and 2003, when Walker received some $600,000 in taxable income, he reported less than $55,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, Shappert said.

A message seeking comment that was left at the offices of Macedonia Baptist on Friday afternoon was not returned.

According to the church's Web site, Walker came to the church in 1992 and in the late 1990s led a campaign to build a new church sanctuary. That structure was opened in 2004.

The loan fraud charges alleged by the government are related to statements Walker made to banks in relation to applications for a credit card, a residential loan and a home equity line of credit.

The false statements to federal agents charge stems from things Walker said during an interview with the IRS on Dec. 15, 2004, according to the indictment.

Maximum penalties associated with the charges Walker faces total 120 years in prison and $4.5 million in fines.

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