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Lyons’ Aide Testifies About Money

February 20, 1999

LARGO, Fla. (AP) _ The Rev. Henry Lyons’ co-defendant was ``like a little kid in a candy store,″ buying diamond jewelry, expensive clothes and a waterfront home with the black church leader, she told jurors Friday.

But she also said she never spent any money she didn’t believe she earned.

Bernice Edwards, testifying for the second day in her and Lyons’ racketeering trial, also told the jury that she and the National Baptist Convention USA president only had a professional relationship.

Prosecutors say Ms. Edwards, a convicted embezzler and the convention’s former public relations director, was Lyons’ girlfriend.

Lyons and Ms. Edwards are accused of swindling more than $4 million from companies seeking to market life insurance policies, cemetery products and credit cards to members of the black church organization. Prosecutors say they duped the companies with the promise of an 8.5 million-member mailing list that never existed.

Ms. Edwards’ lawyer has said she was brought along as ``window dressing″ by prosecutors seeking to convict Lyons. His lawyers say his failed business deals are not criminal matters.

Ms. Edwards testified she received almost $400,000 for her work on one project and she and Lyons shared $1 million from another company _ money she never reported as required under the terms of her three-year probation for embezzling funds from a Milwaukee school.

``I didn’t report it because I didn’t want it to stop. I felt good about it,″ she said. ``I didn’t want anyone to halt it.″

She told the jury she wasn’t in on any of the marketing deals with Globe Life Insurance Co. or the Loewen Group, a funeral home company. But she said that in 1995, Globe executives knew no membership list existed and asked her to help compile one.

She eventually received between $350,000 and $400,000 from Globe, she testified, saying the money was to reimburse her expenses and pay her for her work.

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