Caddo Parish Commissioner Lynn Cawthorne indicted on federal charges

Caddo Parish Commissioner Lynn Cawthorne indicted on federal charges
Caddo Commissioner Lynn Cawthorne wants to travel to South Africa.

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Caddo Parish Commissioner Lynn Cawthorne has been indicted on federal charges for stealing more than $500,000 from a program meant to supply meals to children during the summer.

According to a release from the United States Attorney David C. Joseph, Cawthorne, 51, and Belena C. Turner, 46, both of Shreveport, have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and seven counts of wire fraud.

The Food and Nutrition Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It administers the Child Nutrition Programs. The Child Nutrition Programs include the Summer Feeding Service Program (SFSP), which was established to ensure that children in low-income areas continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session during the summer.

United Citizens and Neighborhoods (UCAN) is a non-profit corporation that participated as a sponsor in the SFSP.  Cawthorne is the president of UCAN, and Turner is the director, representing herself to be its executive director. Cawthorne Catering and Harvest Catering Inc. are businesses that allegedly provided catering services for UCAN.

Beginning in early 2011 and continuing until December 2015, the defendants fraudulently obtained more than $536,000 from the SFSP by engaging in numerous activities to defraud, included filing claims for reimbursement that greatly inflated the number of eligible meals provided, thus claiming more children were fed at UCAN sites than were actually fed.

In addition, money was transferred to the catering companies and other entities so that the defendants could improperly use funds that were  entrusted to UCAN for the SFSP.

Cawthorne and Turner both face 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, restitution and a $250,000 fine for each count.

The Louisiana State Inspector General, Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office, FBI and the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Office of Inspector General investigated the case. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tennille M. Gilreath are prosecuting the case.

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