UCDD Case Heads To Federal Grand Jury

UCDD Case Heads To Federal Grand Jury

By Phil Williams. CREATED Jun 27, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Prosecutors are preparing to present the case involving the Upper Cumberland Development District and Wendy Askins to a federal grand jury.

NewsChannel 5 has learned that witnesses are being called to testify next week about what they know. Investigators have even obtained a critical piece of video from NewsChannel 5's own files.

At the center of the investigation is Living the Dream, the million-dollar Putnam County project that was supposed to become a home for needy seniors.

But it also became former UCDD executive director Wendy Askins' home -- complete with family photos -- at the same time she was transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars from the government agency that was supposed to create jobs and help the poor.

"It looks like that you may have been personally profiting," NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted back in February 2012.

"Absolutely not," she insisted.

Among those called to testify is Earl Carwile, the former UCDD employee who was temporarily put in charge of the office after Askins' resignation.

Multiple sources say that others associated with the agency have also been summoned before the federal grand jury here in Nashville, although their names could not be independently confirmed.

In addition, investigators have obtained copies of video that was posted on newschannel5.com in which Askins appears to be coaching UCDD board members to retroactively approve the transfer of $300,000 to Living the Dream.

The meeting came after her office gave NewsChannel 5 this bogus set of meetings claiming the transfer had already been approved.

"That's what you have to talk to our board about," Askins said, when asked about the minutes.

"You are the one who gave it to us," we noted.

"I really didn't," she responded. "I have not made any copies of any documents for you. Someone else has made those copies."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates followed up, "So you are saying you have no responsibility for giving us bogus minutes?"

"Well, they weren't actually bogus," she said. "It was a mistake."

It was a mistake that cost Askins her job.

Now the federal grand jury will have to decide if that mistake was also a crime.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to Askins' lawyer, but he never called back. Jack Lowery has always insisted he does not believe that what she did was a crime.

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Phil Williams

Phil Williams

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Phil Williams is chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5's nationally award-winning investigative team. His investigations have earned him journalism's highest honors.