LEXINGTON, KY - A federal indictment was unsealed today charging former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richard Dwight Farmer Jr., with misusing and misappropriating money and property belonging to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) during his tenure.
The indictment, filed Friday, April 19, charges Farmer, 43, with four counts of misappropriating property and funds of the KDA, a state agency that receives more than $10,000 annually in federal funds. Each of the four counts covers alleged misconduct occurring in separate calendar years beginning with 2008 and ending with 2011.
Farmer is also charged with one count of soliciting property of value in exchange for intending to be influenced in KDA matters.
According to the indictment, Farmer abused his authority throughout his tenure, using KDA funds to obtain rifles, clothes, hotel rooms, computer equipment and home appliances, all for himself, friends and family.
One example of Farmer’s alleged misuse of funds occurred in 2008, at the Southern Association of State Departments of Agricultural Conference held in Kentucky. The indictment alleges Farmer bought a surplus of gifts for participants and conference workers, such as rifles, watches, case knives, and personalized cigar boxes, and then kept the excess gifts for his personal use.
The indictment also alleges that Farmer misused his position to secure jobs for his friends. According to the indictment, Farmer directed the KDA to create several paid “Special Assistant” positions. He hired friends for these positions, and he ensured that they operated with little oversight and performed minimal official work. Some of these “Special Assistants” received state government salaries in exchange for performing home improvement projects and other personal services for Farmer.
Additionally, on multiple occasions, Farmer allegedly bought hotel rooms at the Kentucky State Fair for extended family using KDA’s money.
Another count in the indictment alleges that Farmer solicited and accepted property from an eastern Kentucky motor vehicle dealership, intending to be influenced in the decision in which he attempted to award KDA grant money to the dealership.
The U.S. Government is seeking the forfeiture of $450,000, which represents the approximate total amount of KDA money that Farmer allegedly misused.
The KDA is a state government agency that is funded, in part, with money provided by the federal government. The indictment alleges that the KDA receives millions of dollars annually in federal money.
Farmer was elected to two terms as Commissioner of Agriculture and was responsible for the supervision and administration of the KDA from January 2004 until January 2012.
Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Perrye Turner, Special Agent in Charge, FBI, and Jack Conway, Kentucky Attorney General jointly announced the indictment today.
The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office and the FBI. The indictment was presented to the grand jury by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth R. Taylor and Andrew T. Boone, and trial attorney Sean Mulryne with the Public Integrity Section of the United States Department of Justice.
A date for Farmer to appear in court has not yet been scheduled. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. However, any sentence following a conviction would be imposed by the Court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statutes.
Any indictment is an accusation only. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.