A federal grand jury has indicted three former officials from the Upper Cumberland Development District, including DeKalb County Mayor Mike Foster in an alleged conspiracy into the misappropriation of federal funds stemming from the Living the Dream project.
(CLICK PDF FILE BELOW TO VIEW THE INDICTMENT DOCUMENT)
Former UCDD executive director Wendy Askins and former assistant director Larry Webb of DeKalb County are charged with conspiracy, embezzlement, bank fraud, unlawful monetary transactions and making false statements.
Foster, who formerly served as chair of the UCDD board, was also indicted along with Askins for making false statements to the agency's board of directors.
According to the sixteen count indictment, Askins and Webb and others "conspired and perpetrated a scheme to convert over $670,000 of government funds intended for the Upper Cumberland Development District, the Cumberland Regional Development District, and Cumberland Area Investment Corporation to the use of Living the Dream, which was owned by Askins and Webb," according to the indictment.
Askins was the Executive Director of UCDD and was responsible for the day to day operations and management of UCDD, CRDC, and CAIC. Webb was the Deputy Director of UCDD and was responsible for assisting Askins.
Living the Dream consisted of three Tennessee Corporations, Living the Dream/Independent Living for Seniors, Inc (a non-profit), Living the Dream/Retirement Living for Seniors, Inc. (a non-profit), and Living the Dream/Independent Living for Seniors, Inc. (A for-profit), which were incorporated either solely by Webb or by Webb and Askins. In general, the stated purpose of Living the Dream was to provide affordable housing. In this regard, Living the Dream (LTD) was empowered to acquire, rehabilitate, own, operate, maintain, manage, lease, sell, mortgage, and otherwise dispose of such housing facilities, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that "Askins and Webb incorporated LTD as either a non-profit or profit entity and caused funds from UCDD and CRDC to be transferred to LTD, without seeking the approval of the UCDD or CRDC Board of Directors."
"Askins and Webb caused LTD to purchase property using funds that were transferred from UCDD's bank account without the prior approval of the UCDD, CRDC, or LTD Board of Directors and sought and obtained bank loans and lines of credit to renovate tghe property by using property and bank accounts of UCDD as collateral for the loans. The loan proceeds were then transferred to LTD without prior approval of the CRDC Board of Directors," according to the indictment.
"In order to hide, conceal, and cover up the illegal activity, Askins and Webb directed other individuals to alter official minutes of UCDD meetings and to delete audio recordings of meetings. Askins then lied about the alterations and deletions. Askins advised Webb and another that they should get their stories straight before a UCDD Board meeting and prepared a false statement which was read to the meeting by Mike Foster," as alleged in the indictment.
"On January 19,2012, during a specially called UCDD Executive Committee Board meeting, Foster read a prepared statement regarding the LTD project and the Board's approval of the transfer of $300,000 from UCDD to CRDC on February 16, 2010. Foster recommended the retroactive approval of the altered February 16, 2010 minutes and the Executive Committee voted to retroactively approve the minutes," according to the indictment.
The indictment against Foster alleges that "On or about January 19, 2012 Askins and Foster aided and abetted by each other, did willfully and knowingly make and cause to be made materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations to wit: Askins and Foster stated and represented to the UCDD Executive Committee of the Board of Directors that the UCDD Executive Committee had discussed and intended to approve the transfer of UCDD funds to CRDC for the purpose of the LTD project at the February 16, 2010 UCDD Executive Committee Board meeting. Whereas, in truth and in fact, Askins and Foster then and there knew well and believed, the UCDD Executive Committee had not discussed nor intended to approve the transfer of UCDD money to CRDC for the LTD project on February 16, 2010."
Askins and Webb were placed on administrative leave in February 2012, pending an internal investigation.
Two months later, as that internal investigation was being finalized, both submitted their resignations.
If convicted, Askins faces up to 225 years in federal prison and $6.75 million in fines on all charges. Webb faces 220 years and $6.5 million in fines.
Foster faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on the one count.
ucdd-indictments.pdf (1 MB)