Huston pleads not guilty in state's biggest public fraud case

Huston pleads not guilty in state's biggest public fraud case

PASCO, Wash. -- Dennis Huston stood in court Tuesday for the first time since being charged with laundering millions from Franklin County public works. It is now officially the biggest public fraud case in state history.

Guilty or not, this case couldn't have come at a worse time for Franklin County. The yearly budget is about 22 million dollars. Prosecutors say Dennis Huston cost the county $1.7 million.

That amount of money is more than what it costs to run his entire office.

"We have 26 total staff including ten other attorneys. Ours is right at $1.53 million," said Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant. "It's been a case that's touched a lot of us. Budgets have been tight. People have been laid off over the years because of budget issues."

The 1.7 million dollars Huston's being charged for could have paid for the salaries of 40 police officers.

In Franklin County, the average homeowner pays $2,000 in property taxes. The money lost covers taxes from 850 homes.

Commissioners say the worst is not over as they wait for a report on the financial damage from the state auditor.

"The loss is potentially more in the range of 3.5 million," said Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck.

"We're trying to look at how we can recover some of these losses," Sant said.

Commissioners say it is unlikely the county will get the money back even if Huston is convicted. Insurance should cover about half a million dollars of it. Authorities say the county is no longer bleeding financially.

"The minute Huston was arrested earlier this year, the money going out the door stopped," Peck said.

The county will also go after money from Huston's family.

A civil lawsuit will check if any family assets were paid for with your taxpayer dollars.

Huston is due in court again on July 24th. His trial is scheduled for August 8th.

Prosecutors said expect delays with more than 4,000 pages of evidence in the case.