As I have said so many times: I bet my life that a thorough audit of the wardens of America would result in indictments of at least half of them. They show complete disdain for the law, think they can do whatever they like because they so seldom are held accountable …. the kickbacks and bribes from prison contractors are pouring into their pockets!
Excerpts from the Article:
Former Cottonport prison warden Nate Cain abruptly entered a guilty plea Wednesday afternoon on the third day of his federal trial on corruption charges, cutting the proceedings short as his ex-wife prepared take the stand to testify against him. Cain pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud related to gun purchases he made on the state’s dime while serving as warden of Avoyelles Correctional Center, now Raymond Laborde Correctional Center.
David Joseph, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, said he expects Cain, 51, to serve time in federal prison and pay restitution for the crimes.
“We weren’t giving him anything,” Joseph said. “He’ll pay for it. I can’t tell you what the judge will sentence him to, but I can tell you prison time will be recommended under the guidelines.”
The deal marked a sudden end to a trial in which Cain had faced 17 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The former warden, who resigned in 2016, took the plea before the jury heard from his ex-wife, Tonia Bandy, and corrections secretary Jimmy LeBlanc, both of whom were scheduled to testify. Bandy had already pleaded guilty in the case.
Cain and Bandy were accused of spending thousands of dollars meant for the Cottonport prison’s operations on a slew of personal purchases — from flat screen TVs and Yeti coolers to toilet paper and coffee, as well as construction supplies to quietly build a new home on prison property — while shielding the fraudulent transactions from any state oversight.
The counts to which Cain pleaded guilty Wednesday pertained only to certain purchases of gun and gun accessories, which amounted to less than $1,000, according to Cain’s attorney, John McLindon. Cain admitted to those limited purchases, and apologized to taxpayers.
But federal prosecutors argue that Cain should be on the hook to pay back as much as $150,000 — the total value of the purchases they alleged were fraudulent — because federal sentencing guidelines allow judges to consider all the relevant conduct.
“Even though he’s only pled to two counts, it wouldn’t be uncommon for the judge to consider the entire scheme,” said Dane Ciolino, a professor at Loyola Law School. “The odds are the judge is going to use the larger number; that’s what usually happens.”
Ciolino said that amount the judge decides on will be a key factor in Cain’s sentence. Ciolino noted the guidelines will add time because Cain stole from the public, but Cain’s decision to take a plea will weigh in his favor.
Cain’s sentencing was set for June 17, and he will remain free on bail until that date. Bandy’s sentencing is set for April 12.
Cain pleaded guilty after three days of testimony. The jury heard damaging accounts from several former employees who said Cain and Bandy completely changed the culture of spending at the prison, frequently violating Department of Corrections rules to buy personal items with state credit cards. They said he made them feel their jobs were at risk if they did not go along with the scheme.
Monroe said Cain told him that “loose lips sink ships,” while poking him repeatedly in his chest in a threatening way. He also testified that when prison officials realized they were under investigation, Cain called Monroe into his office and told him to change the name on the DirecTV account at the warden’s house from Cain’s name to the Avoyelles Correctional Center – because the state had been paying for it.
Another former employee, Thomas Heptinstall, then a lieutenant colonel under Cain, said he found out through the investigation that a wedding present Cain had given him – a $80 pressure cooker – had been bought with state funds. He said he returned it to the state when he learned of its origin.
Cain is the eldest son of storied Louisiana jailer Burl Cain, who himself was forced to step down from his longtime perch as warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in late 2015 amid revelations that he had significant business dealings with the stepfather of an inmate under his supervision. The younger Cain resigned months later, amid investigations into his questionable purchases and other alleged misconduct at his prison, citing his health. Bandy, then still his wife, resigned at the same time, saying she was going to care for her husband, who she said suffered from a medical condition. The two divorced shortly afterward.
Both Cains left during a time of intense scrutiny into nepotism and self-dealing at the Department of Corrections. Though the scrutiny prompted several critical probes and audits, and led to some departures, Nate Cain and several underlings, including Bandy, were the only correctional employees to face criminal charges as a result.
“A lot of our prisons in Louisiana are in remote places, so the warden kind of has the run of the mill,” Joseph said. “We’ve seen, I think, that in several cases in Louisiana. In this case we were able to pinpoint expenses that were being charged to taxpayers that were for personal use.”
Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street, whose office led the investigation into Nate Cain along with the FBI, called the manner in which the former warden operated a “staggering sense of entitlement.”
“Justice was done today,” Street said. “He abused his power as warden and he’s now going to be held accountable for that.”
But justice in two other cases involving Cain and Bandy remain on hold in the Avoyelles Parish District court, as officials there waited for the federal case to play out. Cain was indicted in February 2018 on obstruction of justice, stemming from a 2016 investigation by state corrections officials that found the former warden undermined a probe into a rape allegation at his Cottonport prison. The allegations involved a sexual relationship between an inmate and a corrections officer at the lockup, which is considered rape under federal law, even when both parties consent.
A year prior in January 2017, Bandy was charged with theft of $25,000 or more, malfeasance and injuring public records in the state court following a legislative auditors report that found Bandy was to blame for $30,000 of missing state funds, which were supposed to benefit five clubs to help rehabilitate inmates.