Whitesburg KY

PRIDE director is charged with stealing from county litter fund

Letcher County’s PRIDE coordinator has been charged with illegally turning roadside trash into cash.

Kentucky State Police say Josh Wampler Jr., who was fired two months ago from his position as Letcher County Solid Waste Coordinator, stole more than $17,000 in “litter abatement” money that was supposed to be used to pay non-profit organizations to pick up roadside trash.

The charges against Wampler, 30, of Isom, are contained in six indictments that have been moving quietly through the system since May 31, when the grand jury heard testimony from KSP Detective Randy Combs. Wampler was arrested on July 13 and released after a relative posted a $5,000 surety bond for each of the indictments.

PRIDE (Personal Responsibility In a Desirable Environment) is the acronym for a state and federal antilitter initiative co-founded by Fifth District Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers. In his dual role as the county’s PRIDE coordinator and solid waste coordinator, Wampler was responsible for the litter abatement program, which is funded by fees on landfills and collected by the Kentucky Division of Waste Management. The money is then returned to the counties, which pay non-profit groups $100 for each mile of roadway they clean.

Wampler is charged with committing multiple counts each of theft by deception, a felony, and third-degree possession of a forged instrument, a misdemeanor.

The grand jury alleges that dur ing a six-month period ending in April, Wampler was able to divert as many as five payments a month to himself by submitting false claims for litter abatement work. The payments ranged from $2,000 to $500.

One indictment charges that on January 19, Wampler submitted false claims for payments of $1,300 for litter pickup to AAU Basketball, $800 to SJM Ministries, $800 to Colson Church, $1,200 to the Letcher County Food Pantry, and $900 to the Cram Creek Church. Wampler was able to cash the checks after they were issued, the indictments charge.

The indictments indicate that Wampler began the scheme last November 14, exactly one week after the results of the general election made it clear there would be a change in county administrations. The grand jury charges that on that day, Wampler submitted forged documents claiming that the Colson Church and a Cub Scout troop from Cowan were owed payments of $500 and $1,000 for litter pickup work the two organizations never performed. Wampler “thereafter received the cash proceeds from said checks,” the indictments say.

Wampler’s firing as solid waste coordinator was announced May 21 after the Letcher Fiscal Court met in a closed session. He was replaced by former solid waste coordinator Johnny Ray Williams. PRIDE was still listing Wampler as its Letcher County coordinator on its web site Monday night.

Wampler is scheduled to appear in Letcher Circuit Court on August 22 for formal arraignment on the charges contained in the indictments.

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