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Jessie Rice (courtesy of KY3)

The ranch hand of Christian County Assessor Sandra Bryant-Littles and her husband, Lonnie Littles, pleaded guilty to federal charges related to his employment today (02-11-10.)

Jesse D. Rice, 56, of Clever, was charged with pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of bank fraud for which he was federally indicted on Oct. 14, 2009.

Rice admitted that he falsely reported to law enforcement that 53 head of cattle had been stolen from the ranch. Rice knew that those cattle, which had been pledged as collateral on a line of credit loan at Liberty Bank, had been sold without the bank’s knowledge or permission. When the bank announced that it was going to conduct an inspection of the cattle, Lonnie Littles allegedly asked Rice to assist in the bank fraud scheme.

On Feb. 8, 2009, Rice contacted the Christian County Sheriff’s Office and falsely reported the theft of 53 head of cattle. When deputies responded to the ranch, Rice walked them around the property and provided further false details regarding the alleged cattle theft. Rice also prepared and signed a false written statement describing the alleged cattle theft, which caused the filing of a false investigative report by the sheriff’s office.

Later that day, Rice provided an on-camera interview with KY3 in which he falsely alleged that cattle had been stolen. On Feb. 9, 2009, Rice provided another on-camera interview with another local television station.

Last October, Byant-Littles was federally indicted with four counts of mail fraud for failing to truthfully assess her own property. Federal prosecutors say that Bryant-Littles,"shirked her responsibility to truthfully assess her own property in a scheme to defraud the taxpayers of Christian County.” Lonnie Littles is facing federal charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of bank fraud.

Sandra Bryant-Littles (courtesy Christian County Headliner)

Trial dates of April 26, 2010, have been set for the Littles, however, a plea agreement is said to be in the works for the two.

Under federal statutes, Rice is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1 million. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

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