Downtown Hammond

A view of First Baptist Church of Hammond from atop the eight-story Yale Building in downtown Hammond.

HAMMOND — The First Baptist Church of Hammond faces another lawsuit in connection with a fraud scheme operated by a former deacon.

The former deacon, William Kimmel, was sentenced in 2014 to 22 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $16.4 million in restitution after being convicted in federal court in Raleigh, North Carolina, of defrauding hundreds of investors around the country.

The lawsuit filed against the church earlier this month by Cricket Boyd, individually and as a trustee of the William Boyd Family Trust, is the second civil lawsuit filed locally against the church.

Boyd said she lost her entire $175,000 investment.

A year ago, First Baptist Church of Hammond Inc., was sued by Crystal Elwell, Robert Baldwin and Deborah Baldwin, individually and as custodian for her two minor children. Elwell, according to the lawsuit, was a former employee of the church and served as North American and Caribbean director for its Fundamental Baptist Mission Board. That lawsuit is still in the deposition phase.

In response to the filing of the first lawsuit, Rick Hammond, an attorney representing the church, said last year that the church “believes the charges are baseless. That there has been absolutely no wrongdoing on behalf of the church, and the church stands by its good works and the missionary work it has been doing in the community and around the world” for decades.

The Times was unable to reach Hammond to comment on the latest lawsuit.

The latest lawsuit filed by Boyd seeks class action certification and contends more than 100 people could be part of the class.

The lawsuit claims the members of the potential class action lost more than $5 million in investments they made with Kimmel.

It contends First Baptist should have known of Kimmel's "exploitative propensities." It further states the church had the duty of ordinary care to investigate and not retain Kimmel as a financial adviser for the church.

The lawsuit contends the church "ratified Kimmel's acts and omissions by taking kickbacks from the money he stole from plaintiff and class members."

According to federal prosecutors, Kimmel sold investments in Sure Line Acceptance Corp. in churches across the country. The federal indictments against Kimmel characterized the corporation as a Ponzi scheme where investors were paid their interest from new investor money.


Ed has been with The Times since January 2014. He previously covered government affairs for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida. Prior to Scripps, he was with the Chicago Regional Bureau of Copley News Service.