Ex-Conn. church leader pleads guilty to fraud
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A former leader of a Trumbull church has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a scheme that authorities say defrauded investors including members of his congregation of more than $400,000.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said Julius C. Blackwelder of North Dakota, formerly of Stratford, pleaded guilty Wednesday in New Haven to wire fraud and money laundering offenses. His attorney declined comment.
Blackwelder, 59, was bishop of the Bridgeport ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Authorities say Blackwelder misled investors by saying he would invest their money in safe, long-term commodities futures contracts and, in some cases, guaranteeing a specific return on investment. Prosecutors say he used the money to pay back earlier investors, build himself a house in Stratford and repay personal bank loans.
‘‘This defendant abused his position of trust as a leader in his church to defraud fellow church members and others out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of which he used to construct a waterfront home,’’ said U.S. Attorney David Fein.
Blackwelder is scheduled to be sentenced on May 15.