Mon 22 Mar 99 5:02
A charming little story.

Sunday February 28 12:03 AM ET
Florida Minister Guilty Of Defrauding Companies
By Robert Green

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Reuters) - A jury Saturday convicted National Baptist Convention President Henry Lyons of defrauding millions of dollars from companies doing business with the black church organization.

The Pinellas County Circuit Court found Lyons guilty of racketeering and grand theft. His co-defendant, Baptist convention public relations director Bernice Edwards, was acquitted of racketeering, the only charge she faced.

"I thank God and I thank my attorney," Edwards said. "That is all I want to say." Lyons had no comment.

The jury of five women and one man reached the verdicts after deliberating over three days following a month-long trial.

Lyons remained free on bail pending the outcome of a pre-sentencing hearing. He faces up to seven years in prison on the racketeering and theft convictions. He and Edwards also face a federal trial in April on similar and additional charges, including money laundering and tax evasion.

Prosecutors charged that Lyons and Edwards used their positions to sell phony mailing lists of convention members to a bank, an insurance company and a funeral company who wanted to sell their services to the membership. Lyons was accused of defrauding the companies of more than $4 million.

Lyons alone was charged and was found guilty of accepting a $244,000 donation from the Anti-Defamation League of the Jewish organization B'nai B'rith to rebuild burned black churches and keeping most of the money for himself. He says he returned the money when the ADL asked for it back.

Attorneys for Lyons and Edwards argued that any losses the companies might have suffered was due to bad business deals, not criminal acts. And Lyons said he returned the money to the ADL once it asked for the funds back.

... "And now, I would like to conclude this arrest, with an hymn." * Origin: FIDO QWK MAIL & MORE! WWW.DOCSPLACE.ORG (1:3603/140)


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