High-profile Kentucky lawyer, wife charged with wire fraud

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, June 8, 2021

A Kentucky prosecutor who twice ran for statewide office was indicted on wire fraud charges stemming from an alleged scheme that funneled more than $365,000 from a delinquent tax fund into personal accounts, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Lawrence County Attorney Michael Hogan and his wife, Joy Hogan, used the money to make home mortgage, credit card and auto loan payments as well as on household expenses and utilities, according to a newly unsealed indictment issued by a federal grand jury in Lexington, Kentucky. They also made cash withdrawals, the indictment said.

Michael Hogan also is accused of defrauding the Appalachian county’s child support enforcement office by allegedly billing the program for far more hours than he worked.

The indictment charged Michael and Joy Hogan with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Michael Hogan also faces nine counts of wire fraud and five counts of federal program theft. His wife worked as a legal secretary in the county attorney’s office.

Hogan, 53, ran for attorney general in 2015 and for lieutenant governor in 2019 on a ticket with gubernatorial candidate Robert Goforth. Hogan lost both times in the state’s Republican primary.

Michael Hogan’s attorney, David Cole Jr., said he’s known Hogan for three decades and described him as a “hard-working, honest” lawyer. Cole said he’s confident the Hogans did not commit any crimes.

“If mistakes were made, I do not think those mistakes involved dishonesty, and I’m confident in the integrity of Michael Hogan,” Cole said in a phone interview.

Cole said he is not representing Joy Hogan and did not know who is. It wasn’t immediately clear who is representing her.

As county attorney, Hogan was responsible for collecting delinquent taxes in Lawrence County, which borders West Virginia. The delinquent tax funds should have been used on operating expenses in the county attorney’s office, federal prosecutors said.

But for a seven-year span ending in April 2020, Hogan allegedly paid his wife more than $365,000 from a delinquent tax account, disguising the payments as “bonuses,” the indictment said.

The money was deposited into Joy Hogan’s personal account and the couple’s joint accounts and spent on personal expenses, the indictment said. Those “bonuses” were in addition to the salary and benefits she received as an employee in the county attorney’s office, it said.

The alleged scheme was discovered during a review of the county attorney’s office by Republican state Auditor Mike Harmon, and the findings were referred to the FBI and the IRS.

“I’m proud our office always follows the data, and I want to recognize my team for their hard work in holding public officials accountable to the taxpayers we all serve,” Harmon said Tuesday.

When the audit was released, Hogan said his wife’s compensation from the delinquent tax fund was a salary supplement that amounted to “honest pay for honest work” that benefited the public.

The federal indictment also accuses Michael Hogan of defrauding the county’s child support enforcement office by billing the program for far more hours than he actually worked. For a nearly five-year period ending in June 2020, Hogan billed, on average, more than 65 hours of child support collection work a month but worked only “a small fraction of those hours,” the indictment said.

He’s also accused of paying employees in his private law firm with funds from the child support enforcement office.

Michael Hogan is scheduled to make an initial court appearance on Wednesday. Joy Hogan, 41, is set to appear in court on Friday.

They face up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charges. Michael Hogan faces up to 10 years in prison on the federal program theft charges.