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Local pastor speaks out about charges

September 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A local pastor is speaking out about the charges he and his wife are facing. They were arrested last week for allegedly victimizing an elderly man. The pastor says he's being targeted because of his race.Out on bail and surrounded by members of the Solid Rock Christian Center Church, Pastor Lonnie McCowan is speaking out against the money laundering and theft charges he and his wife face.

"We pray for our accusers as well as we do our supporters," said Pastor Lonnie McCowan. "We realize our accusers are misguided and motivated by something other than the truth."

Pastor McCowan and his wife Kimberly are accused of duping 86-year-old Leo Gilmond into signing over the deed to his house in 2004.

According to court documents, Pastor MccCowan agreed to pay Gilmond $460,000 for the home. Four years later, when Gilmond tried to collect a balloon payment, McCowan said he'd taken out a loan on the property and lost the money in the stock market.

The McCowan's attorney, Ron Bamieh, said there was a real estate deal that didn't work out because of the declining housing market.

"There was a lawsuit that was settled in court," said Bamieh. "Both people were represented by attorneys, both people agreed to the deal and that was it as far as the McCowan's were concerned."

Since their arrest one week ago, the McCowans say they've received hate mail and although they're not willing to make any direct allegations, they're concerned racial animosity may have affected the investigation.

"We're uncomfortable with people making statements about, 'How does a man like that afford a nice car or a nice house?' said Pastor McCowan. "We're uncomfortable with the tone and attitude expressed as if to say, 'If my race has nice things they must be doing something wrong.'"

McCowan says he's served the community for more than 20 years and has been a police chaplain for more than 10 years.

His attorney won't try their case in the press. They'll wait until they have their day in court.

The McCowan's say they believe they'll will be exonerated of the charges and they're putting their faith in God.

The Ventura County District Attorney's office released a statement Thursday afternoon saying the allegations that this case is based on race are outrageous and entirely baseless.

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