Ex-Caddo Commissioner, Sister, Going to Jail for Fraud
Former Caddo Parish Commissioner Lynn Cawthorne and his sister have been sentenced to prison for their roles in a plan to defraud the US Department of Agriculture.
Cawthorne and Belena Turner had pleaded guilty late last year to wire fraud involving the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service and its Child Nutrition Programs.
Details of the Sentencing
US District Court Judge Elizabeth Foote sentenced the pair to three years and 10 months on the fraud charges. Cawthorne also received three years for tax fraud, which will be served concurrently.
Cawthorne and Turner were also ordered to pay $837,000 in restitution to the Department of Agriculture. In addition, the former Commissioner was ordered to pay $58,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.
After serving their 46-month sentences are complete, both will then be in a federally supervised release program for three more years.
The prison sentences meted out on the fraud charges were on the lower end of the federal sentencing guidelines, which allow up to 20 years in prison for that type of crime.
Re-elected After Being Charged
The 55-year-old Cawthorne was serving on the Caddo Parish Commission when he was charged. He easily won re-election to his District D seat in October 2019, but about a month after, following the announcement of his guilty plea, he announced that he would resign.
What Did They Plead Guilty To?
In 2014, a federal investigation concluded that Cawthorne and Turner's UCAN non-profit organization had applied for and received as much as $132,000 for meals for low-income children that had not been served.
Further investigations revealed that UCAN also received more than $1 million from the Louisiana Department of Education for the same purpose, but spent only $56,351.53 on food.
Both Cawthorne and Turner were ordered by Judge Foote to report for prison on May 2.