A Prince George's County minister has been arrested and charged with five counts of fraud for allegedly representing himself as a psychologist and practicing psychology without a license, the state's attorney's office said yesterday.
The Rev. Edward William Brandt III, former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Carrollton in Riverdale, was charged in an information issued by State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall Jr. with one count of representing himself as a psychologist and four counts of practicing psychology.
The charges are misdemeanors, punishable by a fine of up to $500 and six months in jail. No trial date has been set. Brandt was released on his own recognizance yesterday afternoon, according to Robert Tobin, spokesman for the state's attorney.
Gary Milne, Brandt's attorney, said he had not seen the official charges and declined to comment on the case. Attempts to reach Brandt were unsuccessful.
The prosecutor's probe came after the state Board of Psychologists received written complaints from two persons who said that Brandt practiced psychology at the church's Christian Counseling Center.
The arrest is the latest in a series of incidents that have roiled the 600-member congregation.
On March 8, Brandt was relieved of his duties after the the church's administrative body determined that he had not earned three advanced degrees or served as a psychology consultant at four clinics and hospitals, as he had reportedly claimed.
Three weeks later, nine members filed a civil suit alleging that Brandt, two other ministers, the elders and the church reneged on an agreement to give members access to church financial records. The suit also contends that the defendents attempted to rewrite the church's bylaws to centralize authority.
The suit was brought by Thomas Antonielli, the former chairman of the board of the Northeast Rescue Mission Inc. of Washington, last year when the relief organization was dissolved.
Antonielli said in an interview that the mission donated $188,000 in certificates of deposit and the mission's building, assessed at $65,000, to the church last September, with the stipulation that the money provide food, clothing and shelter for poor people. The church, he said, agreed that Antonielli would be privy to church records.
"When I saw that the church did not stick to its original agreement, I requested an audit," Antonielli said. "After they didn't respond, I filed the suit. This was meant for God's work. The only thing I want is that this money be used honestly and fairly," he said.
Steven Campen, attorney for the church, said that he will respond to the charges in court papers within the next few days.