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Four plead innocent in pyramid scheme

Updated:
Four Adair County residents accused of
encouraging other people to invest in a pyramid scheme are set to go to trial next spring.

Westville community leaders Ronald Abels, Jerry Carte, William Lewis and Barbara Rose all pleaded innocent Wednesday. Gary Fain is
to be arraigned Nov. 17.

The five waived their right to a preliminary hearing two months ago.

The five were leaders in their communities. Court records say they participated in the "Friends Helping Friends" pyramid scheme
that operated in the county in 1996 and 1997.

They are accused of encouraging people to invest $2,000 in the illegal scheme.

Donn Baker, attorney for Carte and Abels, said earlier that his clients would enter blind pleas in exchange for two-year deferred sentences.

He said Wednesday that his clients were still happy with the deal offered them, but neither wanted to enter a plea now and then be used against the other defendants.

At least two of the other three defendants were offered suspended sentences.

Carrie Griffith, who represents Rose and Lewis, said she is still seeking a deferred sentence for Lewis.

The state has offered a suspended sentence.

With a suspended sentence, a conviction remains on a person's criminal record indefinitely.

In a deferred sentence, the record would be expunged if no other violations are recorded while the sentence is being served.

Baker said none of the defendants would serve jail time under existing plea offers.


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