FAIRBANKS - The wife of former Fairbanks city Mayor Jim Hayes pleaded guilty Wednesday to misusing federal grant funds sent to a nonprofit social services agency the couple helped found and operate.
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Murilda "Chris" Hayes also pleaded guilty to money laundering. She faces up to 30 years in a federal prison, and will be sentenced after the January trial of her husband and co-defendant. She is not required to testify against Jim Hayes.
Both were accused of misusing more than $450,000 in federal grant funds sent to LOVE Social Services, of which she was executive director and he a board member.
Jim Hayes also is pastor of Lily of the Valley Church of God in Christ.
Both were indicted in January on multiple charges, including conspiracy, theft, fraud and money laundering in relation to their alleged misuse of the money sent to LOVE Social Services. The government says they used the money for personal benefit and the benefit of a new church building and furnishings for the church.
Both initially pleaded innocent to those charges. Jim Hayes was also charged, in an upgraded indictment last month, with the additional crime of filing false tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. He pleaded innocent to that, as well.
Jim Hayes served as Fairbanks mayor for nine years, leaving office in 2001. He was also a member of the University of Alaska Board of Regents at the time of the federal indictment and ultimately resigned that seat.
Chris Hayes was initially charged with 92 counts, including conspiracy and embezzlement.
The U.S. Attorney's office said she often concealed the source of money behind purchases by writing checks from the social service center to "cash" and then converting the cash to money orders and cashier's checks.