, Corbin, KY

March 6, 2012

Whitley files suit against banks

‘Friendly’ lawsuit aims to collect money in former sheriff’s office accounts

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — March 6, 2012.pdf

By Becky Killian / Managing Editor

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Whitley County Fiscal Court that aims to acquire more than $114,000 in accounts set up while former Whitley County sheriff Lawrence Hodge was in office, according to Whitley County Attorney Don Moses.

Hodge is named in the lawsuit, as are Forcht Bank, First State Financial, and Community Trust Bank.

In January, the Whitley County Fiscal Court authorized Moses to file the lawsuit after Moses gave a report about the accounts he had located using information from the Kentucky State Auditor’s Office.

Moses, who said the lawsuit was filed Friday, said the accounts contain some of the prior sheriff’s fee, tax and escrow money. He found four at Forcht Bank, three at First State Financial and six at Community Trust Bank.

Since the sheriff’s administration has changed and those authorized to sign transactions are no longer available to do so, the banks require a court order before they will release the funds.

“For want of a better word, this is a ‘friendly’ lawsuit,” Moses said.

There are four accounts at Forcht Bank that total about $40,000. Moses said those accounts contain excess fee money that will go to the county.

There are three accounts at First State Financial, two of which were property taxes that total about $30,800. Moses said Whitley County Treasurer Jeffrey Gray will help determine the proper distribution of that tax money to various entities.

The third First State Financial account contains 1 cent of Hodge’s drug fund money.

There is about $42,416 in property tax and fee account money at Community Trust Bank, Moses said.

In January, Judge/Executive Pat White said the accounts have been audited by the state and there is no reason why the county shouldn’t move to retrieve the money. He also said the state auditor’s office will help the county determine how the money should be disbursed.

Moses said he first became aware of the accounts when he was given a list of the Community Trust Bank accounts by Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell. He said it appeared that bank statements received in the former sheriff’s office had been discarded.

Moses said he expects Hodge will cooperate in the lawsuit and that the accounts remained open since circumstances prevent Hodge from closing them.

The banks are expected to cooperate, as well.

“They just want to keep themselves covered and I understand that,” Moses said.

“We just want to get this money out of the bank and give it to the court. That belongs to taxing entities,” Moses said.

The parties named in the lawsuit have 20 days to respond.

Hodge is currently serving a 15 and a half year sentence for money laundering, extortion and drug distribution at Elkton Federal Prison in Ohio. He also faces 21 state charges of abuse of public trust and evidence tampering.