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Federal indictments issued for government corruption
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A federal grand jury has indicted three former officials with the Upper Cumberland Development District as part of a wide-ranging government corruption scandal.The Cookeville-based agency represents the Upper Cumberland area, which included Warren County.Former UCDD executive director Wendy Askins and former assistant director Larry Webb are charged with conspiracy, embezzlement, bank fraud, money laundering and making false statements in connection with money diverted to a project called Living the Dream, an upscale home that was meant for seniors that Askins used as her personal residence.DeKalb County Mayor Mike Foster, who once served as chairman of the UCDD board of directors, was also indicted along with Askins for making false statements to the agency’s board during a January 2012 meeting about the transfer of federal funds to the property.The UCDD board of directors was responsible for overseeing the actions of Askins as the executive director to ensure corruption did not take place. However, Askins often treated board members to dinners and expensive gifts – at the expense of taxpayers – and little oversight actually occurred.The 16-count indictment follows a scandal first exposed by NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams.“Once again, we will reiterate that those who seek to profit by defrauding the taxpaying public and misusing government funds will be held accountable,” said Acting U.S. Attorney David Rivera in a statement. “The personal gain and lavish lifestyles gained by fraudulent schemes will eventually come to an end.”At the center of the allegations, the indictment says, is a conspiracy to “convert over $670,000 of government funds,” along with securing loans from two banks, for Living the Dream.