- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - State officials were surprised Monday to find more than 400 people showed up to bid on 29 knives and guns that led to the imprisonment of former Kentucky agriculture commissioner and basketball star Richie Farmer whose jersey hangs in Rupp Arena.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources made more than $21,000 for charity by auctioning off 16 knives and 13 rifles that once belonged to Farmer. The former Republican agriculture commissioner and University of Kentucky shooting guard pleaded guilty to government corruption charges last year and is serving a 27-month sentence in federal prison.

The Case knives were Kentucky blue and had Farmer’s name engraved on the blade. The Remington rifles had the words “Kentucky Proud” engraved beneath the scope. The guns included Farmer’s personal rifle, whose serial number ended in 32 - Farmer’s number when he played for Rick Pinto as a member of the Kentucky basketball team nicknamed “The Unforgettables” for their gutsy play that restored the Kentucky basketball program to prominence.

As agriculture commissioner, Farmer used state money to purchase the guns and knives while attending the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture conference in 2008. The items were supposed to be gifts for staff members, but Farmer ended up keeping many for himself. The guns and knives ended up being part of the federal corruption investigation.

The knives, which cost about $80 each, sold for between $400 and $500 at auction. The rifles, which cost about $500 each, sold for between $1,000 and $1,300. Farmer’s personal rifle sold for $1,400.

“I’m going to put them in the safe. Make it a family heirloom, I guess,” said 40-year-old Matt Grosser, a furniture store owner from Russell Springs who bought two rifles while wearing a University of Kentucky hat.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer decided to send the money made from the auction to the Boys and Girls Club’s urban garden project in Louisville.

“A lot of the local kids there involved in that organization will learn how to grow food and market food and will learn about agriculture,” said Holly Harris VonLuehrte, Comer’s chief of staff. “So we’ll be able to take agriculture into an area where we haven’t been able to go. That way, something that was meant to benefit just a few will end up benefiting many.”

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