Ex-state employee fined for taking bribes from horse-therapy rehabilitation center

·2 min read

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission Wednesday fined a former state employee $46,000 for accepting bribes while working for the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice under the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear.

The commission found that Shannon Anson, of Louisville, accepted 23 payments worth $50,500 between August 2013 and July 2015 in order to refer kids in their care to the now-defunct Bluegrass Training and Therapy Center in Louisville.

Anson was indicted in federal court in Louisville in February 2018 along with Clifford Frank “Jay” Wilkinson and Erica Beth Bowen.

Bluegrass Training and Therapy Center was a non-profit founded in 2011 by Wilkinson. It offered equine therapy, job training and transitional housing to young people who participated in the program through the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice.

Wilkinson, a retired Louisville police officer by night and horse trainer by day, had previously started an equine training program at the Louisville non-profit Boy’s Haven, according to a profile of Wilkinson in Blood Horse Magazine.

Bowen was one of its original employees and was listed as the secretary of the organization on its online filing with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Anson was a social service specialist with the Department of Juvenile Justice, which meant she was in charge of finding programs to place kids who went through the state agency. At the same time, she served on the board of directors of the Bluegrass Training and Therapy Center and sometimes helped them write grants.

In return for the bribes from Wilkinson and Bowen, Anson helped refer young people to Bluegrass Therapy and Training Center and helped the center in other ways, like approving bills it submitted for payment under a federal grant. Those bills contained fraudulent entries that weren’t caught, according to federal prosecutors.

The original indictment charged that Wilkinson and Bowen submitted bills that had inflated the numbers of young people taking part in the program and that they had forged the names of young people on the sign-in sheet. It also alleged that the organization received more than $400,000 in fraudulent payments.

Anson pleaded guilty to accepting the bribes and Wilkinson and Bowen pleaded guilty to paying her. Anson was sentenced to two years’ probation in February, with 30 days of that on home detention, and ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Wilkinson was sentenced to two years of probation, with nine months of home detention, and Bowen was sentenced to two years of probation with three months of home detention.

The sentences also made them jointly liable for $48,158 in restitution to a program at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Anson has also agreed to never again work in the Executive Branch of state government.

Herald-Leader reporter Bill Estep contributed reporting.

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