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Ministry will sell campus, settle investment claims

SHARE Ministry will sell campus, settle investment claims

PITTSBURGH — Grace Christian Ministries will sell one of its suburban campuses for $950,000 in order to repay creditors and investors who lost money in a phony investment plan.

The Second Baptist Church of Homestead will buy the ministries' 11,000-square-foot church, a second building and five acres of land in West Mifflin.

Investors sued the church, former Pastor W. Michael Altman and his wife last year, claiming they were bilked out of thousands of dollars when they were persuaded by Altman to participate in an investment scheme in 1996.

The investors — many of whom were members of Grace Christian — contributed between $500 and $67,000 to Altman and were given certificates of investment. They say Altman promised the certificates would provide an average semiannual interest rate of 16 percent.

The sale of the ministries' campus will allow the congregation to keep its original, smaller church in nearby Homestead and will prevent 33 investors from suing them in the future.

Altman became the pastor of the church just south of Pittsburgh in 1991. He was arrested in November after a 15-month investigation by the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office into his investment plan. He faces more than 100 counts of fraud and deception.

He also has been charged with forcing a church secretary to have sex with him, tampering with evidence, violating state securities laws and committing criminal conspiracy.