|A Wilmington minister’s wife accused of misusing taxpayer money testified Thursday that the couple's gambling addiction included furtive late-night casino visits five nights a week for two years.|
Mary Linda Wright said the couple halted 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.
Charged with money laundering, bribery and other charges in connection with city grants given the church in 1999 and 2000, Lawrence Wright faces up to 215 years in prison and $5.75 million in fines if convicted.
FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Troy testified that Lawrence Wright used at least $62,446 of the grant money for himself. Wright spent up to $80,000, prosecutors have held during the trial.
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 their gambling began on a trip to Las Vegas in 1995 and claimed once winning $13,000 after putting 50 cents into a slot machine. 'Man, that was uplifting,' she said. By 1998, they were gambling in Atlantic City, Dover and Harrington five days a week.
Prosecutors said Wright deposited the grants in a confidential church account that only he controlled.
Wright said her husband always intended to make the church whole and finish the projects he designed.
‘The plan was to win it,' she said. 'Hit the big one.’