Five former Baptist Foundation of Arizona (BFA) officials could face prison if convicted of crimes alleged in a 32-count indictment. Three other former officials pleaded guilty to reduced charges in exchange for turning state's evidence at an initial criminal hearing in Phoenix.

Five defendants pleaded not guilty at the May 4 hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court. They are William Pierre Crotts, the foundation's former chief executive officer; Thomas Dale Grabinski, ex-general counsel and vice president; Lawrence Dwain Hoover and Harold DeWayne Friend, former members of the foundation's board of directors; and Richard Lee Rolfes, an accounting consultant.

Charges stemming from a two-year investigation by Arizona's attorney general include theft, fraud, and racketeering. It is one of the largest fraud cases associated with an affinity group—in this case a religious denomination—in American history.

Sentences for the different counts carry prison terms of between 8 and 12 years. If convicted as charged, the former officials could also be forced to pay restitution to 13,000 defrauded investors. If they are convicted of racketeering, the court could go after their personal assets.

Three others targeted in the probe—former treasurer Donald Dale Deardoff; another officer, Edgar Allen Kuhn; and former board member Jalma W. Hunsinger—accepted a plea bargain in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors.

Deardoff pleaded guilty to two counts of fraudulent schemes. Kuhn confessed to three counts of facilitating fraudulent schemes and Hunsinger to three counts of illegally conducting an enterprise, less-serious felonies carrying sentences of 6 to 18 months. Sentencing for the three was delayed until after the case ends.

Attorneys for ...

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