NewsNewsChannel 5 Investigates


Former 'Living the Dream' official arrested for probation violation, court records show

Former UCDD Boss Gets 18-Month Prison Sentence
Posted at 10:49 AM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 12:38:41-04

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Cookeville resident, who became a household name after diverting government funds for a luxury home she called "Living the Dream," faces new charges for violating her probation.

Wendy Askins, 60, is accused of failing to report to state probation last year after she was released from federal supervision. Askins pleaded guilty in 2016 to theft of federal funds, along with a state forgery charge.

Wendy Askins mugshot 2021.Jpg
Wendy Askins

She was sentenced to probation for eight years on the state charge.

"Ms. Askins was released from federal supervision on 4/26/20 and per the terms of her plea agreement she had 3 days to report to [Tennessee Department of Correction] probation," according to violation of probation warrant filed in Putnam County.

"Ms. Askins did not call TDOC until 7/16/21 and is considered an absconder."

Online records show that Askins was booked at the Putnam County Jail on Aug. 3rd and later released.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to the attorney involved in Askins' 2016 case for comment, but had not heard back at the time of this posting.

The charges against Askins stem from an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation.

For years, Askins headed the Upper Cumberland Development District, an agency that was supposed to create jobs and help the poor in a 14-county region.

At the center of the case was a million-dollar home in rural Putnam County -- a home she called "Living the Dream."

What was supposed to be a home for needy seniors also became Askins' home. Her family Christmas portrait was made there. So was her daughter's graduation photo.

And the estate also became home to the family's horses.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Askins back in 2012, "Were you trying to build your own dream house?"

"Absolutely not," she insisted.

After we began asking questions, Askins gave us a bogus set of minutes claiming that the UCDD board had approved $300,000 in seed money for the project.

Then, she convinced the board to retroactively approve that very same set of minutes.

"That's what you have to talk to our board about," Askins told us at the time.

"You are the one who gave it to us," we noted.

"I really didn't," she replied. "I have not made any copies of any documents for you. Someone else has made those copies."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "So you are saying you have no responsibility for giving us bogus minutes?"

"Well," she answered, "they weren't actually bogus. It was a mistake."

As a result of those questions, Askins was eventually forced to resign.

The Upper Cumberland Development District was eventually able to sell the house and recover most of the money.

Still, a court order required Askins to pay back $233,000 to taxpayers.