The former pastor of a Glen Burnie church has been charged with forging documents to sell the church parsonage and keep the proceeds.
The Rev. Bertram B. Hare, 71, former spiritual leader of Calvary Temple of Glen Burnie, is charged with forgery, operating a felony theft scheme and passing a forged document in what a prosecutor described as a ploy to sell the nondenominational church's parsonage and spend other church funds on himself.
Hare's son Darryl B. Hare, 40, who ran the church's school, faces similar charges.
The Hares, both Millersville residents, were charged in three-count indictments that were unsealed last week in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.
Earlier, church trustees filed two lawsuits. One of them accuses the elder Hare of surreptitiously selling the church's house for $154,000 for his own benefit. A jury found against the trustees in June.
The second lawsuit, which is pending, contends that the former pastor, his son and several of their followers diverted church funds to themselves.
The indictments were returned last month. Both Hares surrendered to police and were released on their own recognizance, according to court records. Neither could be reached yesterday.
Assistant State's Attorney Clifford C. Stoddard Jr. said the elder Hare cut and pasted church trustees' signatures onto a letter that authorized him to sell the church's house in Millersville in 1996. The proceeds financed the younger Hare's house, prosecutors say.
The most serious charge, that of operating a theft scheme from April 1996 through December 1999, carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Quinton Morales, president of the church trustees, said neither he nor other trustees could discuss the case.
Sharon Smith, financial secretary of the 200-member church, said the ordeal has strengthened the church community.
Smith, who has two children in the 155-student church school, said the former pastor sought special offerings for church and school necessities during the time he and his son are accused of spending church funds on themselves.
It makes her sad, Smith said, that religious leaders trusted by congregants might have gone astray and not repented, but she said she is not preoccupied with money and vengeance.
Prosecutors are hoping to recover the money.
They have been examining church documents and finances for a year and a half and have sent letters to congregants soliciting information.
After realizing that they had lost title to the parsonage, church trustees requested the investigation about the time they filed the first of the two lawsuits, in December 1999. Hare resigned two months later.
In June, a jury found that a three-year time limit for the trustees to file the $750,000 lawsuit over the March 1996 parsonage sale had lapsed. That verdict is on appeal.
Bertram Hare contended that the equity in the home was his because when he was hired in 1983 he bought $62,000 in equity from the retiring pastor.
The second lawsuit, filed in June last year, accuses Bertram Hare, Darryl Hare and his wife, Janice Hare, and three followers of diverting funds. It seeks more than $1 million in damages.