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April 22, 2013

Ritchie Farmer indicted by federal grand jury

LEXINGTON — A federal grand jury has indicted former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer on four felony counts of misappropriating state funds and one of solicitation.

The indictment unsealed Monday in Lexington charges Farmer with using his state position to obtain thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts, hotel rooms, clothing and computers. It also charges him with hiring friends who did little or no work for the state.

“Throughout his tenure, Farmer wrongfully used public funds and KDA resources to obtain goods and services for himself and his family,” the 13-page indictment said.

Farmer, a former high school and college basketball icon, was agriculture commissioner from 2004 to 2012.

If convicted on all counts, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“There’s no surprise in there,” said J. Guthrie True, Farmer’s attorney.

True was planning a news conference for later Monday, he said.

Arraignment is scheduled for April 30.

Along with the criminal charges, federal prosecutors want Farmer to give up $450,000 in either cash or assets as proceeds of the alleged illegal activity.

The indictment said Farmer, as head of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture, used funds for an association conference in 2008 to purchase 25 Remington rifles, 25 rifle cases, 52 embossed Case knives and 50 personalized cigar boxes. Some of the gifts were given to attendees. Prosecutors say Farmer took the excess gifts for himself.

The grand jury also accused Farmer of using Agriculture Department funds to benefit his family and friends, including naming at least three people as “special assistants” who did little or no work for the department. Farmer directed the “special assistants” to perform personal tasks for him on work hours, including building a basketball court at his home, installing flooring in his attic, and organizing his personal effects, according to the indictment.

Farmer approved the salaries and overtime of the assistants who performed the work, the grand jury said.

Farmer is also accused of having Agriculture Department employees drive him on personal errands, babysit his children, mow his lawn and transport his dog.

In a separate action, Farmer also faces 42 ethics charges accusing him of misusing state funds and state employees during his time in office.

Farmer was a shooting guard for the University of Kentucky’s Wildcats basketball team from 1988 to 1992. The team was known as “The Unforgettables.”

 

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