Caddo Commissioner’s wire fraud and money-laundering trial postponed. Again

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – For an unprecedented 10th time, the federal criminal trial of a sitting Caddo Commissioner and his sister has been rescheduled.

Caddo Parish Commissioner (D-Dist. 6) Lynn Cawthorne and his sister, Belena Turner are both accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a summer feeding program for children, and were finally scheduled to face the music on Sept. 20th.

But on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge once again rescheduled their trial – this time for Nov. 8.

In April 2018, Cawthorne and Turner were indicted on seven wire-fraud-related counts and 18 money-laundering counts. A year and a half later, another federal grand jury handed down another indictment, charging Cawthorne with two counts of filing false U.S. Income Tax returns.

According to the original indictment, Cawthorne and Turner served as president and executive director respectively of United Citizens and Neighborhoods (UCAN), a non-profit summer feeding program for low-income children. They are accused of bilking the government out of $536,000 by reporting to the government that they fed more children than were actually fed.

The state of Louisiana actually filed suit against the brother and sister duo.

Cawthorne and Turner first appeared in court on May 2, 2018 but did not enter a plea at that time, as they were still trying to figure out who would represent them in court.

Their first trial date, Jan. 14, 2019, was reset for August 5, 2019, after government prosecutors said they needed several more months to roll out all the evidence and defense attorneys said they needed more time to read it.

Since then, for various and sundry reasons, other trial dates set for July 15, 2019, Sept. 30, 2019, Feb. 3, 2020, July 13, 2020, Sept. 28, 2020, April 12, 2021, August 16, 2021, Sept. 20, 2021, and now, Nov. 8. 2021.

In December 2019, after the first three trial dates had come and gone, a new federal grand jury indicted Cawthorne on two counts of tax fraud, and in January 2020, U.S. Magistrate Mark L. Hornsby agreed to combine Cawthorne’s 26-county wire fraud/money laundering case with the tax fraud case.

But still, the delays continued. Only time will tell if this court date sticks, but if it does, opening arguments will kick off more than three-and-a-half years after the original indictment.

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