A former government official in far-western Kentucky has pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges, while the county’s Judge-Executive awaits trial.
Former Ballard County treasurer Belinda Foster entered a guilty plea Tuesday to one count of bank fraud and four counts of wire fraud in Paducah’s United States District Court.
U.S. Attorney John Kuhn says Foster’s fraud scheme began in April 2014 and involved obtaining some $450,000 dollars in bank loans using $500,000 County Certificates of Deposit as collateral, without authorization from the fiscal court. These loans were concealed in accounting records as ‘payroll tax.’
Kuhn says this was done at the discretion of Viniard, who also faces fraud charges.
From the USDC press release:
In April 2014, Viniard subsequently secured a $300,000 loan from First Community Bank in Wickliffe, Kentucky, using a Ballard County Certificate of Deposit valued at approximately $500,000 as collateral. In June 2014, Viniard and Foster obtained another loan, as co-signers, again from First Community Bank in the amount of $150,000 and again used the same CD as collateral.
After receiving the funds from the two loans, Foster was required, by Kentucky Statute, to account for this income on the Ballard County financial and accounting records and report these loans to the Kentucky Department for Local Government. However, Foster, in order to conceal the loans, and at the direction of Viniard, never reported these loans to the state government and intentionally labeled $350,000 from the loans as “payroll tax” instead of accounting for the income as loan proceeds while wiring the remaining $100,000 across interstate lines from First Community Bank in Wickliffe, Kentucky to Huntington National Bank in Columbus, Ohio – not accounting for that amount at all.
Prior to obtaining the two loans, neither Viniard or Foster ever made the Ballard County Fiscal Court aware of these loans nor did Viniard or Foster make the Ballard County Fiscal Court aware that a $500,000 CD was pledged as collateral for the loans. Furthermore, neither Viniard or Foster informed First Community Bank that Viniard had not requested or obtained authority from the Ballard County Fiscal Court to apply for the loans.
Foster also admitted to dispersing at least $27,000 in fraudulent medical reimbursement payments to herself.
If tried and convicted, Foster could have been sentenced to a combined maximum prison term of 110 years and a $2,000,000 fine. But with her plea, prosecutors asked Senior Judge Thomas Russell to give Foster the lowest sentence.
She is scheduled for sentencing before Judge Russell in Paducah, April 21st, 2017.
Conferencing in Viniard’s case will continue in February.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Nute Bonner and is being investigated by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office and the FBI.