Calif. Minister Charged on 17 Felony Counts of Fraud, Grand Theft

July 18, 2003

A Baptist minister has been charged with 17 felony counts of insurance fraud and grand theft after an investigation by the California Department of Insurance (CDI) reportedly found that he worked as a pastor despite claiming total disability retirement benefits due to an injury he incurred as a City of Berkeley employee.

Charles Lincoln Hopkins turned himself in to authorities after a $250,000 bail warrant was issued for his arrest. He pled not guilty to the charges and was released on his own recognizance. The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case.

Hopkins, pastor of Grace Baptist Church on 98th Avenue in Oakland, was injured in 1995 while working as a mechanic for the City of Berkeley. He reportedly applied for and received disability retirement, asserting in insurance documents that he was 100 percent disabled and unable to perform any type of job. He also allegedly certified that he was not receiving any “wages, salary or remuneration” outside of his job with the city.

Hartford Insurance Company, which issued the policy, reviewed the case and reported to CDI that Hopkins was allegedly working as a pastor. Further investigation by the Department uncovered evidence showing that Hopkins had been employed and paid as a pastor since at least 1995, and that he had previously held the same position at another Oakland church.

Investigators said that each felony count against Hopkins could carry a sentence of up to five years imprisonment.

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