Homer Key, a Milwaukee contractor accused of stealing federal grant money, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to four felony charges.
Key is charged with forgery, conspiracy to commit the crime of having a private interest in a public contract and two counts of theft by fraud, all felonies, according to court documents. He faces a maximum of $70,000 in fines and 29 ½ years in prison.
The charges stem from Key’s alleged conspiracy with Freida Webb, the former director of Milwaukee County’s disadvantaged business enterprise program, to steal federal Community Development Block Grant money from the Office of Community Business Development Partners. That office oversees Milwaukee County’s DBE program.
Webb was not arraigned Tuesday as scheduled. Webb’s attorney, Rodney Cubbie, said Webb will enter a plea Sept. 11.
“I have to prepare my client for certain things,” he said, but he would not comment further on the case.
Key and Webb originally were scheduled for arraignment Aug. 20, but those appearances were postponed until Tuesday. Cubbie and Key’s attorney, Rocky Coe, both declined to comment in August on the reason for the delay.
Webb was arrested July 19, 2012, and released the next day. She is charged with forgery, misconduct, theft by fraud and having a private interest in a public contract, all felonies, according to court documents. She faces a maximum of $55,000 in fines and 23 years in prison.
According to the state’s complaint against Webb, she knowingly approved false invoices submitted by Key, whom Webb hired from 2005 to 2011 to provide training for DBEs. During that period, Key allegedly stole at least $40,000 in block grant money, which comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to court documents.
The pair allegedly fabricated a contract in 2011 for at least $10,000, of which Key “kicked back” $2,700 to Webb.