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Commissioner pleads guilty to defrauding child food program

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SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — A Caddo Parish commissioner and his sister pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud expenses final week in U.S. District Court, in accordance to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Caddo Parish Commissioner Lynn Cawthorne, 54, and Belena Turner, 50, each of Shreveport pleaded guilty to wire fraud earlier than federal choose Elizabeth Foote on Friday. They are accused of defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s summer season feeding program for youngsters, the Justice Department stated in a information launch.

According to the discharge, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child Nutrition Programs provide a summer season feeding service to give food to kids through the summer season college break. This program is run by the Louisiana Department of Education.

The sponsors are required to present the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Louisiana Department of Education with documentation for the feeding websites in addition to info on the finances and what number of meals have been served. They are reimbursed after submitting these paperwork or can get funds upfront for pre-approved functions, the assertion stated.

Cawthorne was president of the United Citizens and Neighborhoods Inc. which utilized to sponsor a number of feeding websites. Turner was the manager director presently.

Cawthorne began Harvest Catering Inc. within the title of an “unindicted co-conspirator” in May 2013, the discharge stated. Cawthorne stored management of the corporate’s funds, which included entry to the checks and debit card. Cawthorne and Turner allegedly gave the Louisiana Department of Education false info, saying the catering firm would make meals for United Citizens and Neighborhoods. The state Education Department paid United Citizens and Neighborhoods over $33,000 and within the following days, Turner wrote a test to one other nonprofit she directed and Cawthorne wrote one to Harvest Catering.

According to the assertion, they used a portion of the funds for non-summer feeding program functions. They took it by way of test, money withdrawal or debit card.

Cawthorne additionally pleaded guilty Friday to one cost of submitting a false tax return, a cost he was indicted for in December 2019. The launch stated he allegedly acquired unreported earnings from Harvest Catering. He reported an adjusted gross earnings of $7,555 throughout 2013, which he allegedly knew was inaccurate.

According to the discharge, Cawthorne and Turner every may face up to 20 years in jail, 3 years of supervised launch and a positive of up to $250,000, for the wire fraud cost. Cawthorne may additionally face up to three further years in jail and a $100,000 positive for the tax fraud cost.