Georgia Court of Appeals Reverses Trial Court's Dismissal of RICO Indictment Against Pastor, Bank Officer

As reported by the Macon Telegraph, on Friday the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a ruling of the Superior Court of Bibb County, Georgia, dismissing Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) charges against Jimmy Collins, the former pastor of God's Worship Center (GWC), near Macon, Georgia, and Steven Pittman, a former employee of BB&T Bank. Collins and Pittman were alleged to have fraudulently induced church members into taking out more than $600,000 worth of loans.

Superior Court Judge S. Phillip Brown had dismissed the indictment against Collins and Pittman last July, finding that the State's indictment was not specific enough in alleging the RICO violations. However, the Court of Appeals held that the indictment contained sufficient detail, including a list of specific loan transactions.

Collins and Pittman are alleged to have used Pittman's position as a bank officer to obtain loans and lines of credit for approximately 10 members of Collins' church between 2002 and 2008. Collins allegedly requested that the church members "assist" the church by taking out personal loans, allegedly telling them that they would have no personal risk because the church would be responsible for repaying the loans. Collins is alleged to have targeted church members lacking in "sophistication," allegedly telling them that it was their "Christian duty." Collins and Pittman also allegedly forged documents, provided false financial information regarding the members and falsely represented the intended use of the loan funds. One couple incurred more than $350,000 worth of debt, and claimed that Collins and Pittman executed at least two loans without their knowledge.

Church members filed five civil suits against Collins, Pittman and BB&T. BB&T reached a confidential settlement with the plaintiffs and the claims against it were dismissed.


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