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FBI Raids Company With High-Powered Connections

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FBI Raids Company With High-Powered Connections

By Ben Hall. CREATED May 15, 2014

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A company at the center of a controversy involving the governor and a high powered lobbyist now finds itself in the spotlight again.

Agents with the FBI and IRS raided offices of HR Comp Employee Leasing, which is a staffing agency in Knoxville.

The FBI has confirmed it is part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Tennessee regulators tried to shut down the company by not issuing it a license in 2012. They stated the company's owner Andrea Ball was "not of good moral character" in a consent order from 2012. The state accused the company of operating without a license.

HR Comp Employee Leasing turned to a high-powered lobbyist for help.

Tom Ingram was on the governor's private payroll at the time.

Emails show Ingram and his firm sent regular updates about the Balls to the governor's chief of staff, Mark Cate.

A July 2012 e-mail from the Ingram Group complained about a state fraud investigator -- saying employees at HR Comp felt "intimidated" by him.

In the end, the state allowed the company to stay open after paying a fine and putting it on probation.

Not only did the company stay open, Andrea Ball and her husband at the time wound up standing beside Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam during a 2012 bill-signing ceremony.

No one has admitted personally inviting them to attend.

Tom Ingram said Thursday he did not know why agents raided the company's office.

He is still registered as its lobbyist.

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Ben Hall

Ben Hall

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Ben Hall is a veteran reporter at NewsChannel 5. He has covered the state legislature, presidential campaigns and is presently part of NewsChannel 5's award-winning investigative unit.