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Monday, March 10, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor found guilty on 54 counts

Click Here to View Pastor Ross' Indictment.

A jury has found Pastor Onslow Ross guilty of 54 counts of bank fraud, money laundering and various other illegal transactions.

On the most serious charge, bank fraud, he could be sentenced to as much as 30 years in prison and be fined up to $1 million.

According to 13WMAZ's Yenu Wodajo, reporting from U.S. District Court in Macon, the jury returned its verdict just before 2 p.m.

She reports that members of Ross's Reaching Souls Cathedral of Praise Apostolic Church began crying, and Ross shook his head in disbelief.

Outside in the hallway, Ross told church members and his family, "I lost my dad four months ago, and I just lost my life....Unbelieveable."

Federal Judge Ashley Royal said sentencing would be held within four to six weeks and released Ross to put his affairs in order and spend time with his family.

Court officers said some members of the jury had expressed concerned about their safety after the verdict. Judge Royal gave the jurors the phone number of the U.S. Marshall service and told them to call it if there was any problem.

The jury found Ross not guilty on two of the 56 counts:

-- Count 3, in which he allegedly withdrew $49,000 from a bank account and placed it into another church-held account.

-- Count 43, in which he allegedly purchased a $3,958 check on behalf of the church.

This afternoon, the jury was also asked whether the federal government can keep more than $59,000 seized from Ross's grandmother's bank account. The government contends that the money was stolen from the bank.

But the jury ruled that the money was not related to the case and that the government can't keep it.

The jury notified court officials around 1:30 p.m. Monday that they had reached a verdict.

Due to a juror's illness, the jury had to start over Monday.

Court officials announced Monday morning that one of the jurors had become ill and could not continue. That means an alternate juror had to step in, and the 12 jurors started again.

The jury had been about nine hours into discussing a verdict on Ross, who is charged with 58 counts including bank fraud and money laundering.

Federal prosecutors say he took insurance money from his church and used it to pay for personal items.

Church members had service Sunday morning at Reaching Souls Cathedral of Praise Apostolic Church as they wait to find out if a jury will convict their pastor.

Church members and other supporters filled the courtroom all last week during the trial and church member Jeanette Davis said members filled the pews Sunday morning.

Several say their pastor is innocent.

"This man is a law-abiding citizen and a pastor,” Davis said. “He is reaching souls far and near, and the devil just don't like it."

The jury began deliberating late Thursday afternoo