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Fraud History: The $500 Million Pyramid — How William Crotts Bankrupted the Baptist Foundation of Arizona

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Through his attorneys’ legal maneuvers, and procedural mistakes on the part of the prosecution, Bill Crotts managed to keep himself out of an Arizona courtroom for several years.

But on July 24th, 2006, after a 10-month jury trial, William Pierre Crotts was found guilty of three criminal counts of fraud and one count of illegally conducting an enterprise.

Thomas Grabinski, Crotts’ right hand, was convicted of the same charges. Both were acquitted of 23 counts of theft.

A sentencing hearing was scheduled for September 29th by the presiding Judge Kenneth L. Fields.

Prior to the sentencing hearing, Crotts’ and Grabinski’s attorneys requested that their clients be allowed to wear suits, instead of the prison stripes usually worn by the convicted. when the sentences were handed down. Maricopa County’s notorious Sheriff Joseph Arpaio objected to the request.

Judge Fields agreed with Arpaio, and denied the request.

At the September 29th hearing, the now 61 year-old Crotts, and Grabinski, 46, wore prison stripes as they faced about 100 BFA fraud victims who attended and testified at the hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court.

The testimony went straight for the heart. At the hearing, victims said they had saved all their lives for retirement, only to lose everything and return to minimum-wage jobs.

“These men have damaged a lot of lives and ruined a lot of lives,” said Patricia Srader of Sonoita, who invested more than $1 million with BFA.

“You have given Southern Baptists a bad name,” 80-year-old Darrell Tramel scolded Crotts and Grabinski. Tramel had lost his life savings, more than $1 million, to the BFA. Tramel told the executives he now was forced to sell candy at a mall kiosk to survive.
Judge Fields sentenced Bill Crotts, the former President of the Baptist Foundation of Arizona, to eight years in prison. Grabinski, Crotts’ right hand, got six years. Both were ordered by the Court to pay $159 million in restitution.

William Crotts, (right), and Thomas Grabinski, at their sentencing hearing, September 29th, 2006. (photo: Tuscon Citizen.)

William Crotts, (right), and Thomas Grabinski, at their
sentencing hearing, September 29th, 2006. (photo: Tuscon Citizen.)

The sentences were paltry. The value of what Crotts’ and his sidekicks went far beyond the millions they squandered.

By committing their fraud in the name of God, Crotts and the Baptist Foundation of Arizona also stole the faith of many. They exploited the elderly of their own faith.

How does one recover from such betrayal? How can one be repaid for the stress of losing one’s life savings in the final years?

It doesn’t happen.

Ellen McCullar, 70, a Jacksonville, Florida, widow, had $100,000 invested with a BFA account. She had not recovered her money.
“I may have to sell my house, and I am seriously thinking of going back to work,” said McCullar to the Phoenix New Times.

“But I will probably get only minimum wage. I am not up to date with technology, and I don’t think anyone wants to hire old people anymore.

“What breaks my heart most is, I thought after I was dead and gone, my grandchildren’s investments would mature at BFA, and my grandchildren would say: ‘Boy, my grandmother really cared about me.’”


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