Indictment handed down against ministry owner in case of bribing Chandler cop

A grand jury has indicted one of the owners of a Christian nonprofit company accused of investment fraud on charges that he bribed a Chandler police officer and filed phony legal claims against public officials.

Ed Purvis, co-owner of Nakami Chi Group Ministries International, faces 20 years in prison if convicted on four counts of harassing public officials with bogus property liens and other filings and bribing the Chandler officer.

Purvis, who appeared in Maricopa County Superior Court today, has denied any wrongdoing.

The grand jury says Purvis was harassing officials involved in an ongoing fraud investigation of Nakami.

The fraud case is scheduled to go to court in June. State and federal investigators say Purvis and his partner Gregg Wolfe orchestrated a scheme that has netted millions of dollars from churchgoers in Arizona and 12 other states. Wolfe also had denied any wrongdoing.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office announced the Purvis indictment shortly after Purvis appeared in court this morning.

The grand jury said Purvis gave Chandler Police Officer Bradley Forward an undisclosed benefit to conduct illegal background searches on a state attorney and a potential witness in the fraud case. It also said Purvis filed illegal property liens and legal claims against a Maricopa County superior court judge; the Maricopa clerk of courts and lawyers with the Arizona Corporation Commission, who have accused him of committing securities fraud and selling illegal securities. Purvis and Wolfe promised investors 24 percent returns while funding faith-based charities.

Wolfe was not specifically named in Wednesday’s indictment. In a written statement, the Attorney General’s Office noted that a “second defendant” is facing similar charges.

The Arizona Corporation Commission has been investigating Purvis and Wolfe for about two years and in October, attempted to shut down Nakami. In court filings, corporation investigators described Nakami as a pyramid scheme in which new investor money is used to pay dividends to old investors.

Investors said Purvis and Wolfe told them that their company was worth $170 billion and controlled assets around the world, including gold mines, Australian developments, telecommunication firms, banks and a Phoenix technology company.

But an Arizona Republic investigation last year raised questions about the size and holdings of Nakami, which uses a Scottsdale post office box as its company business address.

State records show Purvis is a licensed practical nurse living in a Chandler home valued at $270,000 and Wolfe is a former roofing contractor. Records also show Purvis and Wolfe do not have broker, lender or banking licenses and have not filed paperwork in Arizona related to mines in the state.

In court filings, Corporation Commission investigators said that hundreds of thousands in investor money were used by Purvis for gambling, credit cards, jewelry, a down payment on a new house, a restaurant, a new car, loan payments and cash withdrawals, among other things.

Despite those allegations, pastors and members at Vineyard Church in Avondale and Chandler Christian Church, some of whom have invested in Nakami, have steadfastly defended Purvis and Wolfe. They say there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

In December, a grand jury indicted former Officer Forward on 10 felony counts of supplying Purvis and Wolfe with investigative files and using police computers to dig up information on witnesses and a prosecutor.

Forward faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted of hindering prosecution, stealing and destroying public records, computer tampering and illegally releasing criminal histories.

Forward, 30, who resigned from the force after Chandler Police launched an internal investigation, said in an earlier interview that he was sorry for putting Chandler in a negative light.

Authorities say Forward lied to investigators with the Arizona Corporation Commission in order to get hold of confidential investigative files, which he turned over to Purvis and Wolfe.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday May 3, 2007.
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