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The CRIMINALs are in Charge of EVERYTHING

Whited Sepulchers

Criminal probes, lawsuits target Oakley pastor over fraud allegations

By Roman Gokhman and Rowena Coetsee

Police investigations and lawsuits over accusations of fraudulent loans target an Oakley pastor whose financially troubled ministry includes a lavish estate that bears his name.

Rio Vista and Brentwood police have launched separate investigations of 61-year-old Jerry Hanoum, who founded Mountain View Christian Center and Trinity Christian Schools. The church and school operate on a vacant public school campus in Oakley, where they have failed to keep up with rent and tax payments.

A Rio Vista woman is suing Hanoum and Jerry Dellinger, an associate, alleging financial and psychological elder abuse stemming from loans she made totaling $230,000.

The suit states that Hanoum and the church used properties as collateral that they didn't own. One of the properties is the nearly 5-acre Hanoum Estate in Oakley that Mountain View advertises as a pastoral retreat and event center.

Another former church member said he recently settled a lawsuit with Hanoum and Dellinger out of court over $125,000 he loaned Mountain View to pay salaries for the church's school, which is losing its lease from the Oakley school district at the end of June.

"I'm a lucky one because I stood up to him," Richard McDaniel said.

The church has a lien against its assets because it owes $7,960 in property taxes, penalties and interest that has accrued since it leased the campus in 2008, according to the Contra Costa County tax collector's office.

Rio Vista investigation into Hanoum and Mountain View centers on promissory notes he is said to have signed for loans from congregation member Donna Quinlan, who was 68 in 2005 when she made the initial $80,000 loan. She said she loaned him an additional $150,000 in 2007.

"I believe she was one of many in the parish he sought investments from," Rio Vista police Detective Vicki Rister said.

The first loan offered a church-owned property on Balfour Road in Brentwood as collateral, according to the lawsuit, and the second loan was secured by the Hanoum Estate on Knarlwood Road in Oakley and Mountain View assets.

Quinlan has yet to get back her money, the suit contends.

The suit, filed in February, includes copies of promissory notes with Hanoum's signature that hold the two properties as collateral. The first promissory note did not include an address for the Balfour Road property. No records were found indicating that Mountain View owned any real estate when the notes were signed.

The Rio Vista police investigation follows one that Brentwood police initiated in February. Hanoum is suspected of defrauding at least two people in that city, police Chief Mark Evenson said.

Evenson did not comment further, saying detectives don't want to compromise the investigation.

The department has yet to take its findings to prosecutors. "There's some things we are still looking into," Evenson said.

Hanoum, who said he lives in Brentwood, declined to discuss details of his ministry and the accusations against him when reached by phone last week.

"We're going to deny the allegations," he said. "There's been a lot of words said. We're going to wait until all the investigations are over before we comment."

Hanoum Estate, which the county assessed at $1.55 million last year, features a 9,268-square-foot mansion and a six-car garage. The grounds also have two ponds, a man-made creek, a 1,600-square-foot arbor, an 80,000-gallon swimming pool with the initial "H" in tile at the bottom and a heart-shaped hot tub, according to news reports, city documents and a former churchgoer.

The Hanoum Estate website describes it as a ministry of Mountain View Christian Center, and says, "It was started by a senior pastor who Satan tried to take out."

Property records indicate that Aisha Tre Othman, of Santa Clara, held title on the property from 2004 until U.S. Bank took ownership in February after she defaulted on the loan.

Hanoum said he was in contract to purchase the Oakley estate from Othman when she defaulted on the property loan. Othman could not be reached for comment; Hanoum said she was in Egypt.

Hanoum said that despite the estate being bank-owned, he has a wedding and a pastoral retreat planned for the site in the summer.

"We still have it operating," he said. "We still believe we are going to keep it."

According to court divorce documents filed in 2009, Sharon Kaye Hanoum said her husband "currently leases to own two large estates," including Hanoum Estate. She also listed a nearly 6,000-square-foot home on Balfour Road that had an assessed value of $1.86 million in 2010. In addition, she reported $120,000 in furnishings for both homes, all in Jerry Hanoum's possession.

Jerry Hanoum, who married Sharon in 2003, listed a $6,000-per-month pastor housing allowance as his sole income. He reported no assets.

Quinlan's lawsuit says that Hanoum harassed her and forced her to loan him money.

It says that Hanoum first asked Quinlan for a loan in 2005 after the death of her husband. He advised her to take her life savings and investments out of the stock market and place them in his care. She and her husband attended the church when it was in Brentwood.

Hanoum also promised her a 50 percent return within three years, according to the suit and promissory note.

She asked for proof of ownership of the two properties but was never given any, according to the suit, which also names Mountain View Christian Center and Dellinger, the organization's president.

Quinlan wants to recover her investments as well as compensation for elder financial abuse and mental suffering.

Dominic Signorotti, an attorney for the defendants, declined to comment on the allegations last week. A court hearing is scheduled for May 10.

Rister said her investigation has not found any evidence of coercion or intimidation.

Oakley police Chief Bani Kollo said his department is monitoring the Brentwood and Rio Vista investigations and keeping an eye out for additional victims.

Financial problems have plagued Mountain View, which as of last week was four months and $66,655 behind in its lease of Almond Grove Elementary School on Amaryllis Street.

A tax-exempt organization is still liable for property taxes when it rents government property.

The state Franchise Tax Board suspended the church's corporate status in September 2009 for failing to file one or more years of income tax returns, according to agency spokesman Daniel Tahara.

With the suspension still in effect, the church isn't supposed to be operating at all, he added, although he emphasized that the Franchise Tax Board's role isn't to enforce the law.

Hanoum's career and personal life have been marked by difficulties even before he settled in East Contra Costa.

He was pastor at a church in the San Diego area but resigned in 1996 after admitting to an adulterous affair while he was the minister of a church in Vacaville, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune story.

Later, Hanoum operated San Diego International Christian Center. The church declared bankruptcy in 2000. He was named in lawsuits against that organization in 1999 and 2001.

Hanoum says on his website that he began Mountain View Christian Center in December 2002 in Dellinger's living room.

McDaniel, also a former member of Mountain View Christian Center, said in his lawsuit that in March 2009 Hanoum persuaded him to loan the church $125,000. He said the debt eventually grew to $145,000 and that after several requests for monthly payments were ignored, he sued Hanoum and Dellinger, as well as Dellinger's son, Scott, and Hanoum's son, Dustin, the church's controller.

Dustin Hanoum and the Dellingers did not return phone calls seeking comment.

McDaniel said he quit attending the church when Hanoum "started preaching about forgiving debt from the pulpit."

A judge ruled in his favor, he said. Because Jerry Dellinger was selling property near Balfour and Deer Valley roads, the judge ordered him to repay McDaniel from the money made during the sale.

McDaniel said he agreed to settle for $30,000 less than what he was owed because he no longer wanted to deal with Hanoum and Dellinger. He still made money on the investment.

"Dellinger didn't pay me out of the goodness of his heart," McDaniel said. "He did it because he was court-ordered to."

Other former church members said they rebuffed Jerry Hanoum's attempts to drum up money.

Among them was Mike Saporito, who said the pastor asked him to mine his network of contacts for funds with the promise that he would receive 10 percent of what he brought in and that investors would realize an 8 percent annual return over three years.

Calling it a "slimy setup," Saporito said he ignored the request.

"I was a new Christian, but I wasn't born yesterday," he said.


Church preacher convicted of sex assault

By Ruth Fuller

Rev. Morris Eubanks told a judge in Lake County Thursday night that God will punish those who bore "false witness" against him during his trial for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl.

The Waukegan man, who has preached at Baptist churches in North Chicago and Zion, according to testimony, declined to take the stand in his own defense, saying he was relying on his faith to clear his name.

But there would be no divine intervention for Eubanks, as a jury found him guilty of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and predatory criminal sexual assault after four hours of deliberation.

Eubanks, now 59, was convicted of fondling the girl on two separate occasions in August 2008. Eubanks has been in jail awaiting trial since his July 2009 arrest.

At that time, Eubanks signed a typed statement at the Waukegan Police Department confessing to the assault -- a confession his attorney Christopher Lombardo challenged.

The victim testified against Eubanks, saying he told her, "Whatever happens between us stays between us."

The girl, now 14, said she was scared and embarrassed. She did not report the abuse until telling her mother nearly 11 months later. “I thought it was time to tell her,” she said.

The girl's mother testified that her daughter sobbed as she told her of the abuse. The mother said she confronted Eubanks, who she said swore on a Bible that "I didn't touch her."

Before contacting police, the mother said she consulted a pastor. “I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing,” she said. “(Eubanks) is supposed to be a minister.”

Before the verdict, Eubanks' niece, Akilah Walker, said her uncle recently had written her a letter from jail.

Eubanks wrote that he was "helping the guys in jail. He's still ministering in jail,” Walker said. “He said, ‘Maybe God brought me here for this moment to help the guys in here.' ”

Sentencing is scheduled for June 2, when Eubanks could face up to 60 years in prison.

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