The co-owner of a non-profit Christian investment company says he was doing God's work. An Arizona grand jury says he bribed a police officer and filed bogus 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 and one count of bribing a Chandler police officer.
The indictments come on top of a separate two-year fraud investigation of Purvis and his business partner, Gregg Wolfe. Authorities say the pair orchestrated a scheme that has netted millions of dollars from churchgoers in Arizona and 12 other states.
Purvis, who appeared in Maricopa County Superior Court on Wednesday, and Wolfe have denied any wrongdoing.
In the case unveiled Wednesday, the grand jury said Purvis, 37, of Chandler, filed illegal property liens and legal claims against a Maricopa County Superior Court judge, the Maricopa clerk of courts and two lawyers with the Arizona Corporation Commission who have accused him of committing securities fraud and selling unlicensed securities.
Purvis also is accused of paying Chandler police Officer Bradley Forward an undisclosed benefit to conduct illegal background searches on a Corporation Commission lawyer and a potential witness in the fraud case.
"This is a particularly brazen and despicable set of activities," Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said Wednesday. "We consider these to be serious charges."
Wolfe was not named in Wednesday's indictment. Goddard noted that an unidentified "second defendant" is facing similar charges.
Neither Purvis nor Wolfe could be reached for comment.
Purvis and Wolfe promised investors that their money would be used to fund Christian charities while generating 24 percent returns. Investors included a pastor, elders and congregation members at Vineyard Church in Avondale and Chandler Christian Church.
The Corporation Commission has been investigating Purvis and Wolfe for about two years. It moved to shut down Nakami after 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.
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.
State records show that Purvis is a licensed practical nurse living in a home valued at $270,000 and that 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.
The Corporation Commission in October ordered Nakami to stop doing business. In court filings, commission investigators described Nakami as a pyramid scheme in which new investor money is used to pay dividends to old investors.
A court hearing on the Nakami case is scheduled for June.
State investigators said hundreds of thousands in investor money was 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 the allegations, pastors and members of the Valley churches have steadfastly defended Purvis and Wolfe, saying there is no evidence of wrongdoing. None could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Last year, Purvis and Wolfe filed a series of unusual legal claims against several individuals involved in the case, including witnesses, lawyers and The Republic. Citing admiralty law, which applies to vessels on the high seas, Purvis and Wolfe said they had been libeled and demanded from each person more than $15 million in damages.
Purvis also filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court and property liens against individuals based on his admiralty claims.
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.
A Superior Court judge has sealed Forward's case from public view.