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Associated Press, Published September 07 2012

ND man, a former Vegas church treasurer, faces fraud charges

LAS VEGAS — A former Lutheran church treasurer in Las Vegas is accused of pocketing congregation funds in a scheme that federal prosecutors in Nevada say cost the church $1.75 million.

Gregory Olson, 48, of Ryder, N.D., is summoned to appear Oct. 5 in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on fraud and tax charges that could get him up to 32 years in federal prison and more than $1 million in fines, said Natalie Collins, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden.

It wasn't immediately clear Friday whether Olson had a lawyer. An attorney representing the church in a separate civil theft, breach of contract and damages lawsuit filed in February in state court said he has been unable to locate Olson.

The federal indictment handed up Wednesday alleges that as property chairman of Calvary Lutheran Church, Olson mortgaged church property and paid himself more than $440,000 from loan proceeds.

The church has since changed its name to Amazing Grace Lutheran Church.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported the indictment. Church President Alan Clark and Rev. Randy Foos told the newspaper (http://bit.ly/Uyv0Uf ) that the congregation lost about two-thirds of its 170 members and now uses a triple-wide mobile building several miles south of the Las Vegas Strip.

Foos said that after many meetings and prayers, he and the congregation look forward to putting up a permanent building on the new church site.

According to the indictment, Olson convinced the congregation that money was needed for remodeling, and from September 2006 to March 2008 obtained six mortgages on church properties totaling $1.75 million.

Olson is accused of asking church members to loan money to the church while he was writing himself checks and wiring the money to a bank account for his company, Ascent Holdings, doing business as Ascent Financial Corp.

Clark said the congregation later learned that Olson used the money to buy a vehicle, make a down payment on a house and pay off civil judgments against him. Church leaders confronted Olson in August 2009.

Olson is also is accused in the indictment of filing false tax returns for the years 2006 through 2009.

Ryder is about 40 miles southwest of Minot.

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