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Accused Minister's Wife Testifies About Secret Gambling

22 April 2002

DELAWARE, Pennsylvania -- As reported by the Delaware News Journal: ``The wife of a Wilmington minister accused of misusing taxpayer money testified Thursday the couple's gambling addiction included two years of secret late-night trips to casinos five nights a week.

``Mary Linda Wright said the couple snapped out of their spiral two years ago, when her husband, the Rev. Lawrence W. Wright, realized state and federal authorities were investigating $150,000 in city grants given to his church.

``...Lawrence Wright is charged with money laundering, bribery and other charges in connection with city grants given the church in 1999 and 2000. He faces up to 215 years in prison and $5.75 million in fines if convicted.

``Linda Wright said she rushed home from the gambling trips to her job as bankruptcy adviser for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

``She said the couple once dismissed the idea of attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings - a discussion held on one of their trips to Atlantic City.

``FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Troy testified that Lawrence Wright used at least $62,446 of the grant money for himself. Prosecutors have said during the trial that Wright spent up to $80,000.

``His attorney, Stephen B. Potter, said the minister gambled away most of the money. Potter has conceded Wright broke state laws in spending the grant money but said he is innocent of the federal charges.

``...Linda Wright said the couple began gambling on a trip to Las Vegas in 1995.

``She said she once won $13,000 after putting 50 cents into a slot machine. 'Man, that was uplifting,' she said.

``She said the couple used the trips as an escape. Lawrence Wright was often depressed at the end a day at the church, where she said he was a `Superman' who solved problems for 659 church members.

``By 1998, they were gambling in Atlantic City, Dover and Harrington five days a week. She said the couple waited to leave for their gambling trips until 9:30 p.m. so parishioners would not see them go.

``Prosecutors said Wright deposited the grants in a confidential church account that only he controlled.

``...She said her husband always intended to make the church whole and finish the projects he designed. And she knew how he planned to get the money back.

``'The plan was to win it,' she said. 'Hit the big one.'

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