SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A federal judge has agreed to combine two separate cases pending against Caddo Commissioner Lynn Cawthorne involving allegations of money laundering and filing false tax returns in connection with his financial management of a state summer food program.
In December, a federal grand jury indicted Cawthorne, charging him with aiding and assisting in making and subscribing false tax returns in 2013 and 2014. He pleaded not guilty to those charges earlier this month.
Cawthorne was already set to go to trial in February on wire fraud charges stemming from his indictment in April 2018. In that case, Cawthorne and his sister are accused of stealing more than $536,000 from a program meant to supply meals to children during the summer. 18 additional charges of money laundering were added in February 2019 in connection with the case.
Cawthorne and his sister operated United Citizens and Neighborhoods (UCAN), as president and director, respectively. UCAN was a non-profit corporation that participated in the Summer Feeding Service Program (SFSP), which is administered by the Louisiana Department of Education Division of Nutrition Support. The SFSP was established to ensure that children in low-income areas continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session during the summer.
Cawthorne’s attorney J. Ransdell Keene noted in a formal request to consolidate the cases late last week that “the alleged counts charging ‘money laundering’ amount to money received from the Summer Food Program and which ultimately paid for bills or other items which the Government alleged were unrelated to the Summer Food Program.” Keene went on to argue that that “The money in both cases is exactly the same and the witnesses should largely be the same. In fact, it is believed that the dollars set out in the ‘money laundering’ charges are the same dollars which are alleged to not be set out on his tax returns.”
The government did not object to the request and on Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark L. Hornsby ordered the cases to be combined.
Cawthorne’s trial for wire fraud was originally set to begin February 3. The new trial on the combined charges for both Lynn Cawthorne and Belena Turner has been continued to July 13, 2020.
Despite his legal troubles, the Caddo Parish District 6 Commissioner Lynn Cawthorne won reelection in October and is currently serving in his second full four-year term in the seat.