FRANKFORT — Richie Farmer, once a basketball hero and rising political star, has agreed to a plea deal on federal and state charges of misappropriation of public funds which will likely send him to prison for up to two years.
Farmer parlayed his role as a beloved University of Kentucky basketball player into election as Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture and a place on the 2011 Republican gubernatorial ticket with David Williams.
It was during that unsuccessful 2011 campaign, however, that things began to unravel for Farmer. His wife sued for divorce and just a few months after the campaign, his successor as agriculture commissioner, Republican James Comer, asked for an audit of the department during Farmer’s administration.
Democratic Auditor Adam Edelen’s scathing report indicated Farmer hired friends and girlfriends who performed little real work; used department funds and staff for personal use; and improperly used grant funds.
Farmer, 44, was subsequently indicted by federal prosecutors on four counts of misappropriating funds and one of soliciting property in exchange for government grants. Each count carried a possible sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine and federal prosecutors were also seeking $450,000 in restitution. A federal trial date of Oct. 22 had been set for Farmer.
State prosecutors also planned to charge Farmer for campaign finance violations and his sister, Rhonda Monroe, for assisting him. Farmer was also facing 42 charges by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.
But Thursday, Farmer’s attorney, Guthrie True, issued a press release saying he had filed a motion for a change of plea and indicating he has reached an agreement with prosecutors and the ethics commission to resolve all the charges in exchange for a guilty plea.
“If approved by the respective courts and the Ethics Commission, the agreements provide that Richie will plead guilty to two counts of the indictment presently in the United States District Court,” True said in his release.