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|Charges dismissed against banker|
A Franklin State Bank vice president has been cleared of wrong-doing in a four-year old case stemming from the collapse of a trucking company.
Joe Doughty had been under a federal indictment for bank fraud since 2004. However, a federal judge granted Doughty's motion to dismiss all charges on Friday.
Franklin State Bank President Bill Walker said employees at the bank shared Doughty's relief at the dismissal of charges.
"During the past two years while the proceedings were ongoing, Joe has remained an exemplary citizen of our community and has remained a valued employee of the FSB," Walker said.
While Doughty was president of the Franklin Parish division of Progressive Bank in 2003, Doughty oversaw a number of loans to Cynthia Simon's Ole Time Trucking.
Simon's company was slapped with a $3 million tax lien after an investigation revealed Simon had failed to pay out some four years of federal employee tax withholdings.
Following that investigation, a grand jury indicted Doughty on charges of bank fraud. Progressive Bank fired Doughty after 23 years of employment.
Doughty's attorney, Julian Murray, said the indictment did not stem from wrongdoing on the part of Doughty, but because banking rules and regulations "are complex and confusing."
"Joe Doughty only did not commit a crime, did absolutely nothing wrong, he only did what was in the best interest of the bank," said Murray, a Metarie defense attorney. "He was lied to by Cindy Simon and she pled guilty to that crime."
In October of 2007, Simon pled guilty to charges that she stole funds from an employee retirement account at Ole Time Trucking, failed to forward certain tax withholdings to the IRS, and misled bank officials.
Murray said Doughty's reputation in the community was unblemished, noting Doughty brought some $9 million in loan accounts from Progressive to Franklin State Bank.
"Had we gone to trial, we had subpoenas ready for the sheriff and a supreme court justice who were going to testify as character witnesses for him," Murray said. "That just shows his reputation in the community."
Franklin State Bank's Walker called the support Doughty received "astounding."
"I would hope if I had some kind of problem that I would get the kind of community outpouring of support that Joe did," Walker said.
During the entire ordeal, Walker said his faith in Doughty never waivered, which was why he hired Doughty within a week after Progressive fired him.
"We knew all the circumstances," Walker said. "We were fully informed of Joe's situation."
"All of us at the Bank have admired his strength during these proceedings," Walker said. "We have always believed in his integrity and we now know that our confidence was well-placed."
In a written statement, Doughty credited coworkers and officers at Franklin State Bank for their support.
"I can't imagine what life might have been like these last few years without the support of Bill Walker and the officers, directors and employees of Franklin State Bank," Doughty said. "My family and I want to thank the hundreds of people in the community that have offered words of encouragement and support."
Progressive Bank President George Cummings, III would not comment on the dismissal of charges.
"It's a legal matter within the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney," Cummings said.