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Minister Faces Federal Sentence

June 18, 1999

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ The Rev. Henry Lyons, once the powerful leader of one of the nation’s largest black church groups and now an inmate at a state prison, faced further humbling in federal court.

The 57-year-old minister was to be sentenced today on federal tax evasion and bank fraud charges to which he pleaded guilty in March. The five counts carried a total possible sentence of 75 years in prison, but his lawyers expected a term of fewer than 10 years.

The charges grew out of his business dealings while president of the National Baptist Convention USA. He admitted failing to pay taxes on $1.3 million in income, defrauding a bank and making false statements to a financial institution and to federal housing officials.

Federal prosecutors dropped 49 other charges, including extortion, conspiracy and money laundering.

Lyons was convicted Feb. 27 in state court of bilking corporations out of nearly $4 million, and of stealing almost $250,000 donated by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith for burned black churches in the South.

He was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for racketeering and grand theft.

A repentant Lyons has emerged since he began his state sentence April 1 at Lowell Correctional Institution near Ocala, his lawyers said.

``He’s reading the Bible and reading prayer every day ... trying to find peace for himself,″ said attorney Jeff Brown.

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