Woman gets 18 months after taking funds for ALF that never opened

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A Tennessee woman who obtained state funds to renovate a home she said would become an assisted living facility but then used the money to upgrade the building for her daughter and herself has been sentenced to 18 months in prison, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee David Rivera has announced.

Wendy Askins also will served two years of supervised release and pay $233,000 in restitution, Rivera said Oct. 28.

Askins, the former executive director for the Upper Cumberland Development District, previously was charged in a 12-count superseding indictment charging conspiracy, bank fraud, embezzlement and making false statements. She pleaded guilty to theft of federal program funds on Aug. 30.

Askins carried out the fraud from May 2010 to February 2012, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. She purchased a home outside of Cookeville, TN, which she named Living the Dream, and used funds belonging to UCDD and its sister agencies, including the Cumberland Regional Development Corporation and the Cumberland Area Investment Corporation, to renovate it. Instead of opening the home as an assisted living facility as announced, however, Askins and her daughter moved into the home and made “luxurious upgrades” to it, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Askins also reportedly set up a company called L.A. Management to operate the senior living facility. “To hide her wrongdoing, Askins directed employees to falsify the minutes of the board of director's meetings,” the U.S. Attorney's Office said. “At other times, Askins lied about the circumstances of the fake board minutes.”

Askins, according to court documents, carried out the scheme with co-defendant Larry Webb, who previously pleaded guilty on Aug. 17, 2015. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 14.

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