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Ex-LDS bishop in Connecticut pleads not guilty to fraud

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A former leader of a Trumbull church has pleaded not guilty to charges he cheated investors, including members of his congregation, out of more than $400,000.

Julius Blackwelder, who was bishop of the Bridgeport Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pleaded not guilty last week in federal court in New Haven.

Authorities say the 59-year-old Blackwelder, of West Jordan, misled investors by saying he would invest their money in safe, long-term commodities futures contracts and, in some cases, guaranteeing a specific return on investments. He is accused of using the money to pay back earlier investors in a pyramid scheme, build a waterfront home in Stratford and repay personal bank loans.

Blackwelder is charged with money laundering and mail and wire fraud.