Federal trial for former DETCOG executive director, family members set for June

Federal trial for former DETCOG executive director, family members set for June

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - As the result of a pre-trial order, the federal trial for Walter Diggles, the former executive director of the Deep East Texas Council of Governments and several of his family members has been pushed back to early June.

According to a federal court document, the final pre-trial hearing for Walter Diggles, Anita Diggles, and Rosie Diggles is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on June 1 at the Ward Burke Federal Courthouse in Lufkin. Jury selection and the trial are scheduled to start at 9 a.m. at the same location on June 5.

The pre-trial order was signed by U.S. District Judge Ron Clark.

Walter Diggles, his wife, and his daughter have been named in a federal indictment alleging several schemes carried out by the trio since 2006, all in the name of keeping a church he pastored alive.

The indictment explains how Walter Diggles was the pastor of New Lighthouse Church of God in Christ in Jasper, as well as the registered agent of the Deep East Texas Foundation. The offices of the Foundation were located in the church. The indictment alleges it was his position and authority in these entities which allowed the conspiracy to succeed.

The Foundation received funding almost entirely from DETCOG through federal Social Services Block Grant funding and received $4.4 million in funds from 2007-2012, according to the indictment.

According to the indictment, "Walter Diggles was not only the executive director of DETCOG, but had extensive involvement in the affairs of the Foundation. In fact, Walter Diggles had direct input into the agenda of the Foundation; sometimes participated in Foundation meetings, and would sometimes refer persons to the Foundation for services. Additionally, he had the authority to decide who would receive money from or services paid for by the Foundation and who did not."

The indictment explains how Lighthouse Church had fewer than 40 active members and the majority of funds received by the church during that five-year period were SSBG funds that flowed from the federal treasury, to DETCOG, to the Foundation, then to Lighthouse Church.

Back in January, Walter Diggles announced his retirement as DETCOG's executive director. The move came before a DETCOG meeting to discuss his job status with the organization. At the time, DETCOG Chairman Wes Suiter said Walter Diggles' retirement would be effective as of Jan. 26.

"We're just going to move on," Suiter said in a previous East Texas News story. "He was on leave without pay and benefits and we will pay him for anything we owe him before he went on leave. He was not allowed to accrue any vacation time or benefits or anything like that while he was on leave."

In a letter to DETCOG, Diggles explained that he is retiring for two reasons.

"First, I firmly believe it is important for the DETCOG Board Directors and Professional Staff to focus on its mission of improving the quality of life for the citizens of the region and not have to focus on any issue that threatens the regional unity and racial harmony that has existed within the COG under my leadership," Diggles said in the letter. "Secondly, I have been offered another opportunity to work in my field of expertise."

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