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Commissioner says no guilt by association

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

As law enforcement carried out their raids Thursday morning with strategic efficiency targeting several Memphis day cares, businesses and at least one house, public confusion arose over ownership of some of the targeted business.

For hours Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism was forced to clear up what he said were "misconceptions" that his family had knowledge or involvement of what happened.

MORE: Feds, Memphis Police raid day cares, businesses

It unfolded within a matter of minutes, with all the controlled frenzy blended law enforcement teams could hope for in catching their intended target completely unaware.

For hours dozens of  law enforcement agents combed the expansive grounds around 361 West Holmes that included the operations of Chism Family Learning Center. After announcing their presence and ramming down doors, the sound of a woman's scream cut through the air.

But, it would take more than an hour after the raid for federal agents to meet with the homeowner, Ray Chism, Jr., who arrived just in time to be frisked and then taken inside his house to be served with a sealed search warrant.

Miles away, another Chism-owned business, the Express Car Wash in the 1600 block of Shelby Drive, was served with another warrant as bewildered employees were lined up against the wall while agents conducted an extensive search of their business office.

As news began to leak of the choreographed raids attention soon centered on the relationship, if any, of the Chism-owned businesses to Commissioner Chism. Reached by phone Commissioner Chism vehemently denied any involvement.

"I'm not even related to that set of Chisms," the commissioner said. "Anyway, I have no business affiliation with them. My wife's center is owned by my wife and whatever happened today happened to a Chism family that's different from mine."

Sources have told FOX13 News the nature of the federal agencies involved in the raids and what they could be looking for is a fraud case similar to one that exploded with headlines more than a decade ago. A federal investigation that began in 2002 ended in 2005 with the convictions of Cherokee Children's Services owners Willie Ann and John Madison. The couple finally admitted to stealing federal funds intended for day care children to finance a lavish lifestyle. They concealed their thefts by falsifying tax records and bookkeeping entries.

Meanwhile, still embroiled with alleged conflict of interest problems of his own over his former ownership of a day care, Commissioner Chism remains insistent he'll be exonerated of the allegation against him leveled by fellow Commissioner Terry Roland.

"I never contracted with Head Start,"  Commissioner Chism said. "My contract was with the Memphis City Schools system. At the end of the day there was no benefit to me directly or indirectly."

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