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Lyons project hit by 2nd foreclosure action


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 25, 1998

ST. PETERSBURG -- In another sign of growing financial trouble surrounding the Rev. Henry J. Lyons, a non-profit group that wanted to build an elderly housing facility beside his church is facing foreclosure.

A Ministry Questioned: more coverage from the pages of the St. Petersburg Times.
Former state Sen. Mary Grizzle this week filed a foreclosure complaint against Bethel Adult Care Inc., to whom she sold land near 34th Street and 24th Avenue S in December of 1996.

Grizzle holds the $200,000 mortgage, and says she never received a payment of $4,000 due on June 20.

"The defendant has been habitually late in making payments," the lawsuit filed in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court said.

Lyons, who has pleaded innocent to state and federal criminal charges, had been president of Bethel Adult Care and a leader in the plans for a housing project for the elderly.

He removed his name from the group's board of directors last year following allegations of financial improprieties in his work as president of the National Baptist Convention USA.

Corporate records show Bethel Adult Care's board now is made up of three leaders in Lyons' church. One of them, Ashby Hobson, declined comment on the foreclosure Friday evening.

Two weeks ago, the city of St. Petersburg filed separate foreclosure proceedings against Bethel Adult Care over the land next to Grizzle's, which the group also intended to use for the elderly care facility.

As part of a $300,000 city loan to Bethel Adult Care in 1996, the group was required to start construction on the $5-million, 84-bed project by the end of last year. The group missed the deadline. That's why the city foreclosed.

The Bethel Adult Care project also has been linked to two National Baptist Convention documents that federal prosecutors say were forged. One pledged the NBC to pay $750,000 for the project, but the document, which was used in an application seeking federal financing, turned out to be phony.

The foreclosure suits by Grizzle and St. Petersburg follow other signs of financial distress for Lyons.

Federal prosecutors have frozen his bank accounts and foreclosure proceedings have begun against him for failing to make mortgage payments on a $700,000 Tierra Verde house he owns with former NBC employee Bernice Edwards.

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