Va. Mayor Charged with Defrauding Church Charity

Lynchburg Mayor Carl B. Hutcherson Jr. was indicted over allegations that he looted a church charity of more than $30,000 and defrauded two people of their Social Security disability benefits.

Hutcherson was charged with fraud, making false statements to federal officials and bank representatives, and obstruction of justice.

The federal indictment, issued Dec. 1 and unsealed Wednesday, alleges that Hutcherson was struggling to pay the bills at a funeral home he runs as he took money from the disability recipients and a charity connected to Trinity United Methodist Church, where he is pastor.

"This boils down to one man who became mired in great financial difficulty," U.S. Attorney John Brownlee said.

Hutcherson, 61, did not immediately return telephone messages left by The Associated Press.

Lynchburg City Manager Kimball Payne had no comment on the indictment and said there were no plans for a special meeting to discuss Hutcherson's future on the City Council, which elected him mayor. The council has a regular meeting scheduled Tuesday.

Hutcherson, who was chairman of Trinity New Life Development Corp., is accused of taking at least $31,500 from the charity, spending some of the money to pay a $5,000 personal debt and make a $22,000 payment to the Internal Revenue Service.

Most of the $34,650 raised for the charity had been donated by Jerry Falwell Ministries, and the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who is based in Lynchburg, had been called to testify before the grand jury in February.

"They wanted to know that we wrote the check and what our instructions were," Falwell said earlier this year. "We said we had no complaints about how he used it."

The charity was to pay Hutcherson's church $1,500 a month in rent for use of the church's building, the indictment said, but instead Hutcherson used the money for himself.

The indictment alleged that when confronted with evidence that he stole from the charity, Hutcherson lied to officials of the Bank of the James, the FBI and the grand jury.

It also alleged that Hutcherson was the designated recipient of Social Security funds for two disabled people, and spent money intended for them on items including a stereo and television. Brownlee declined to identify them.

Hutcherson was to be arraigned Monday in Roanoke. Brownlee said he will not ask that he be jailed.

The seven counts Hutcherson faces carry a combined penalty of 105 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine, but federal sentencing guidelines would call for a significantly lighter sentence if he is convicted.