ST. FRANCISVILLE — A former East Feliciana Parish School Board member pleaded no contest Thursday to felony theft in connection with a scheme to divert funds meant for a West Feliciana Parish church.
Oliver Wingfield, 80, 7014 Tommy James Lane, Jackson, entered the plea before 20th Judicial District Judge William G. Carmichael, who sentenced Wingfield to a suspended five-year prison term.
Carmichael also placed Wingfield on supervised probation for five years on the condition he pay a $1,000 fine, make restitution to the church and perform 60 days of community service.
Wingfield is the third of seven people indicted in the case to enter a plea.
West Feliciana Parish Police Juror John Cobb, Cobb’s wife, his mother-in-law and the Rev. George Veal, a Clinton minister, also face prosecution in the case brought last year by State Police detectives.
Veal and Wingfield were officials in a defunct nonprofit organization, Feliciana Enrichment Center in Clinton.
The group’s building burned to the ground in August 2008, and Wingfield, Veal and the Cobbses are accused of diverting $80,000 from a fire insurance policy to private hands by funneling it through the Cobbs’ church, Union Bethel Family Church.
In announcing the arrests last year, State Police said a non-profit’s money can be given only to another nonprofit organization, but investigators said the defendants entered into an elaborate check-cashing scheme to move the money out of the church.
Contractors John B. Perry, 63, 7599 Greenup Lane, Ethel, pleaded guilty in July to theft of less than $300, while David Deloach, 57, 7006 Tommy James Lane, pleaded no contest to theft of less than $500.
Both received a deferred sentence.
District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla said Wingfield, Perry and Deloach would be obligated to testify, if called as witnesses, during trials of the remaining suspect.
John Cobb, his wife, Carol, and his mother-in-law, Louisa Jones, were indicted on three counts of felony theft each, while Wingfield and Veal were indicted on one count each of felony theft.
John Cobb contends that State Police lack authority to investigate a tax-exempt church’s finances. Carmichael ruled against him in February, and Cobb is appealing the ruling.
Also Thursday, Carmichael appointed the Public Defender’s Office to represent Carol Cobb, whose attorney died earlier this year. Her trial was set for March 19.