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Was an Ohio-based nationwide "biblical medical plan" used as a slush fund to enrich the founder and his family members? Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery says that's what happened to "hundreds of thousands of dollars" belonging to the Christian Brotherhood Newsletter, and she filed suit in December to get the money back.

Charging numerous instances of fraud and conversion of ministry funds and property to private use, the lawsuit demands return of property and cash valued at more than $2.4 million, and alleges that Hawthorn took larger sums without leaving a paper trail. Montgomery demands $16.3 million in punitive damages, all to go back to Christian Brotherhood, under new leadership.

Bruce Hawthorn, 59, founded Christian Brotherhood Newsletter in 1982 after successfully appealing to fellow Christians to help with his medical bills following a near-fatal car crash. Hawthorn, the son of a Wesleyan Methodist minister, was then operating a rescue mission for alcoholics in Barberton, Ohio.

Christian Brotherhood, billed as "a proven and biblical method for Christians to share one another's medical bills without using insurance of any kind, "grew rapidly and now operates in all 50 states. It publishes subscribers' medical expenses as "needs," which are paid by regular contributions from other subscribers. The organization handles millions of dollars worth of medical bills per month for its estimated 40,000 subscribers. Similar programs have sprung up in its wake (CT, Oct. 2, 2000, p. 24).

Dancer Paid $41,000Along the way, however, Hawthorn allegedly raided approximately $728,200 from Christian Brotherhood's accounts for cars, a motor home, real estate, an airplane, and cash to benefit himself and family members. The lawsuit ...

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April 2, 2001

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