The Georgia Court of Appeals has reversed a Bibb County trial court ruling that dismissed the racketeering case against a former Macon pastor and a former Macon banker.
Jimmy Collins, 43, former pastor of God’s Worship Center on Gray Highway, and Steven Pittman, 43, a former employee of BB&T bank, are accused of swindling Collins’ church members into taking out loans totaling more than $600,000.
Bibb County Superior Court Judge S. Phillip Brown dismissed the case in July 2009, saying the 13-page indictment charging Collins and Pittman with a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization violation was not specific enough in outlining the charges.
“They’re entitled to know what to defend against,” Brown said at the hearing.
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But the appellate court ruled the indictment contained “sufficient detail,” according to a copy of the Friday ruling.
The appellate justices pointed to a list of specific loan transactions and details of the alleged fraud scheme outlined in the indictment as evidence that the charging document adequately described the charges against the two men.
Bibb County District Attorney Howard Simms said attorneys for Collins and Pittman have 10 days to file a motion requesting the appellate court reconsider the ruling. If a motion for reconsideration isn’t filed, the case will return to the Bibb County Superior Court case calendar.
“It goes back to the same status as it was at before the (July) hearing,” Simms said.
It’s unclear when the case could go to trial.
Pittman’s attorney, Laura Hogue, said she hasn’t decided whether to ask the appellate court to reconsider its ruling.
“We’re reviewing the (appellate court’s) decision,” she said.
Hogue said she will continue to prepare for trial if the indictment stands its ground through the appeals process.
Collins’ lawyer, Jonathan Waters, said he also hasn’t decided whether to ask the court for reconsideration. He declined to comment further about the case.
Between July 5, 2002, and May 16, 2008, Pittman and Collins allegedly used Pittman’s position as a bank officer to obtain loans and lines of credit for about 10 church members, according to the indictment presented to a Bibb County grand jury in December 2008.
As pastor of the church, Collins allegedly used his position and influence to identify potential borrowers who “lacked financial sophistication” to “assist” the church, but told church members that they were at no personal financial risk because the church would be responsible for repaying the loans, according to the indictment.
Collins and Pittman also are accused of providing false financial information about the church members in banking documents, submitting forged documents to the bank and misrepresenting the true use of the loan funds, according to the indictment.
Members of Collins’ congregation filed five civil lawsuits in Superior Court against Collins, Pittman and BB&T, said Brian Adams, the lawyer who represents the church members in the lawsuits.
Adams said his clients reached a confidential settlement with BB&T, and the cases against the bank were dismissed.
He would not discuss terms of the settlement.
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.