Baltimore minister sentenced for failing to file tax returns Officials wonder where his company's funds went

January 30, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A 67-year-old Baltimore minister who made nearly $1 million in three years as a contractor but failed to file state income tax returns was sentenced yesterday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court to 18 months in jail.

Authorities say one question remains: What did the Rev. Archie L. Nichols do with all the money?

The lawyer for Mr. Nichols said his client, who led New Emmanuel Christian Church in the 500 block of Robert St., is penniless and lives modestly in a small apartment with his wife.

And the church "is in horrible condition," said Assistant Attorney General Norman Smith.

"We just don't know what happened to that cash," said Mr. Smith, who recommended the maximum sentence.

Mr. Nichols declined comment, as did family members and supporters who attended the sentencing before Judge Raymond Thieme Jr.

Mr. Smith said that Mr. Nichols' company, Nichols Drywall & Paint Co., was paid $953,423 working exclusively for Alpha Painting and Construction, a Harford County contractor in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

During that time, he failed to file any income tax returns and withdrew $571,498 in personal checks from company bank accounts, Mr. Smith said.

Greg Bernstein, Mr. Nichols' lawyer, told the judge his client has been married 40 years, has seven children and led a crime-free life until his Jan. 28 plea on the income tax charge.

He said that building up the church on Robert Street "was his dream."

Mr. Bernstein said Mr. Nichols put the money into the business and the church he began in 1986.

But Mr. Smith said that Mr. Nichols' contracting firm had no overhead beyond the laborers he hired.

He said that Mr. Nichols still owes $70,000 on the mortgage for the Robert Street church, which cost $75,000 in 1990.

The church's electric bill is six months past due and the structure is so rundown it fails to meet city safety codes for electricity, heating and plumbing, Mr. Smith said.

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