Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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April 22, 2013

Farmer indicted on felony fraud charges

FRANKFORT — Former Republican Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer was indicted on four counts of misappropriating public funds and solicitation of property in exchange for influencing agriculture matters by a federal grand jury.

According to the indictment, Richard Dwight Farmer, 43, who was twice elected agriculture commissioner and ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor after a storied basketball career in high school and at the University of Kentucky, “repeatedly abused his authority for his own benefit,” and “wrongfully used public funds and (Kentucky Department of Agriculture) resources to obtain goods and services for him and his family.”

The indictment alleges Farmer took for his personal use excess guns, knives, watches and gift cards purchased as gifts for participants at a 2008 Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture in Lexington and directed KDA staff to reserve hotel rooms in their names at the state fair which were used instead by Farmer’s extended family.

It also alleges he created non-merit jobs to which he appointed “close associates” who performed little or unnecessary work and used KDA staff to perform personal work such as lawn work, work on his personal home, babysitting his children and driving his dog.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and fines of up to $250,000. The government is also seeking restitution of $450,000.

Farmer’s attorney, Guthrie True, said he was “disappointed but not surprised by today’s indictment.”

He said he has been aware of the plan to indict Farmer for “several weeks now,” adding that he believes the issues contained in the allegations are more political and policy-related than something which should be decided by the courts.

True said Famer “absolutely” will plead not guilty and will surrender voluntarily rather than being taken into custody. He said the proposed April 30 arraignment date set forth in the indictment may have to be re-scheduled because of another trial True is scheduled to begin the previous day in Bowling Green.

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