Bibb church sued for not paying $2 million loan

awomack@macon.comMarch 25, 2013 

A man with Macon ties has sued Reaching Souls Cathedral of Praise Apostolic Church for non-payment of a more than $2 million loan.

Bertram H. Witham Jr., a 94-year-old former IBM treasurer and retired Air Force colonel, lent the money as a way of helping his maid, who attended the church, said David Hollingsworth, a Macon lawyer.

The church’s pastor, Onslow Ross, signed the promissory note for $2,647,372 on May 1, 2008, according to the lawsuit. The money was to be used to build a new church.

The church has defaulted on the loan, and as of Dec. 31 it owed $5,537,687 in principal and interest, according to the complaint, filed in Bibb County Superior Court last week.

A church representative declined comment on the suit Monday.

The church sanctuary building, located at 5555 Bethesda Ave., was destroyed in a January fire. Firefighters ruled the fire an arson after finding a petroleum-based accelerant. The fire started in multiple locations.

Ross was convicted of 54 counts of various financial crimes in March 2008 stemming from the misuse of a $389,000 insurance check. The church had received the money after a sanctuary roof collapsed in 2005.

Ross was sentenced to 130 months in federal prison on June 3, about a month after he signed the promissory note.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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