Hamblen County Trustee Indicted on Multiple Counts, Including Theft

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Authorities have indicted Hamblen County Trustee John Baskette this month on charges of misconduct in office, according to a new audit from Tennessee Comptrollers.

The indictments include 40 counts of failure to deposit public funds, two counts of official misconduct, one count of destruction of government records, one count of theft over $60,000, and one count of worthless check over $1,000, according to a Comptrollers’ press release.

“Investigators determined that Baskette withheld $89,478.81 in cash that was collected by the trustee’s office between November 5, 2018 and December 8, 2018. Baskette admitted that he hid the undeposited cash in various locations in his office because he feared carrying large amounts of cash alone to the bank for deposit,” the press release said.

“About a month after the Comptroller’s Office began its investigation, Baskette deposited all of the missing money in the county’s account. However, the investigation revealed that Baskette also withdrew $88,520 from his personal bank accounts in the days prior to depositing the missing cash in the county’s account.”

Baskette, auditors went on to say, was in debt to several individuals for equipment sales, cattle sales, and personal sales. Many of these individuals stated Baskette requested transactions get done in cash.

“After depositing the missing money in January 2019, Baskette and a family member opened a joint checking account with a $450 check from the family member on February 4,” according to a press release.

“The family member then obtained a loan for $89,000 and placed the loan proceeds into the joint account. Baskette used the loan proceeds to pay his debts to three individuals via certified checks. The $89,450 Baskette received from his family member was nearly the same amount of cash he withheld from the trustee’s office collections.”

Baskette, who is responsible for collecting property tax payments in Hamblen County, had still not paid the $1,285 that he owed the county for his own 2018 property taxes as of June 30 of this year, Comptrollers said.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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