Two Former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Deputies sentenced for kickback and bribery scheme

Published 6:07 am Thursday, October 7, 2021

NEW ORLEANS –  U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that DAVID HANSON, age 63, from Abita Springs, Louisiana, and CLIFFORD “SKIP” KEEN, age 53, from Covington, Louisiana,  were each sentenced today to 50 months imprisonment by United States District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle, after they previously pleaded guilty as charged to a one-count Bill of Information charging them with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and soliciting a bribe, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ” 371, 1343, 1346, and 666(a)(1)(B).  The charges stemmed from their roles in the privatization of a work release program in Slidell, Louisiana, that operated between 2013 and 2016.  Additionally, HANSON and KEEN were sentenced to three (3) years of supervised release, a $10,000 fine and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee.  Restitution ordered without prejudice, with the amount to be determined at a later date.

According to court documents, HANSON and KEEN, each of whom worked as Captains with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office (STPSO) discussed with then-Sheriff Rodney J. (“Jack”) Strain about becoming owners of a work release program in Slidell, Louisiana that Strain decided to privatize.  As sheriff, Strain had authority, among other things, to enter into certain contracts binding STPSO, including professional service contracts, unilaterally.  Because STPSO rules prohibited employees from “participating in a transaction in which he has a personal substantial economic interest of which he may be reasonably expected to know involving the governmental entity,” HANSON and KEEN would have had to resign from STPSO—thereby losing their salaries and future pension increases—if they wanted to assume ownership and control of the Slidell work release program.  HANSONKEEN, and Strain discussed ways to allow HANSON and KEEN to maintain their employment and still profit from the Slidell work release program.  Ultimately, HANSONKEEN, and Strain agreed to make KEEN’s adult son (Person 1) and HANSON’s adult daughter (Person 2) owners of the Slidell work release program.

HANSONKEEN, and Strain agreed that they needed to find another individual actually to operate the Slidell work release program because Person 1 and Person 2 lacked sufficient education, training, experience, or funding.  They decided on Person 3, to whom HANSON presented a series of conditions, including the following: Person 1 and Person 2 would each own forty-five (45) percent of the Slidell work release program and would each receive forty-five (45) percent of the profits, while Person 3 would own ten (10) percent, receive ten (10) percent of the profits, and receive a salary; and Person 3 would be responsible for the daily operations of the Slidell work release program.   Person 3 was also responsible for providing the capital necessary to initiate the program.  On about May 1, 2013, Person 1, Person 2, and Person 3 entered into an operating agreement that created St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC, in which Person 1 and Person 2 each had a forty-five percent ownership interest and Person 3 had only a ten percent ownership interest.

On June 4, 2013, Strain entered into a cooperative endeavor agreement (“privatization agreement”) on behalf of STPSO with St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC to operate the Slidell work release program.  Although Person 1 and Person 2 acted effectively as passive members and did not participate substantially in the operation, oversight, or administration of the Slidell work release program, Person 3 was required to pay Person 1 and Person 2 salaries in addition to their ownership disbursements.  Person 3 was also directed to pay Person 4, who was Strain’s relative and an employee at STPSO, approximately $30,000 per year for a no-show job at the Slidell work release program.

During the time St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC operated the Slidell work release program, Person 1 and Person 2 received not less than $1,195,000 from St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC in the form of ownership disbursements, salary payments, and occasional lump sum miscellaneous payments.  Person 1 received no fewer than 145 payments totaling over $550,000, and Person 2 received no fewer than 131 payments totaling over $600,000.   Person 1 and Person 2 converted the majority of the money they received from St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC to cash.  At the request of KEEN and HANSON, Persons 1 and 2 then transferred a significant portion of the funds back to their fathers.

Additionally, HANSONKEEN, and Strain understood that Strain would receive financial compensation from them in exchange for bestowing the right to operate the Slidell work release program on St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC.   HANSON and KEEN each gave Strain a portion of the payments they received from St. Tammany Workforce Solutions LLC, through Person 1 and Person 2, in cash payoffs in amounts greater than $1,000 on a recurring basis in exchange for Strain bestowing the right to operate the Slidell work release program on St. Tammany Workforce Solutions LLC.  HANSON also arranged for Strain’s son to receive a check in the amount of $4,000 because Strain gave the contract to operate the Slidell work release program to St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC.  HANSON, KEENStrain, and others attempted to conceal the scheme by, among other things, not including in the privatization agreement the fact that Strain would receive financial compensation in exchange for bestowing the right to operate the Slidell work release program on St. Tammany Workforce Solutions LLC, communicating by cellular telephone, and providing most of the money to Strain in the form of cash.

Strain was indicted in a sixteen-count indictment by a federal grand jury separately on August 29, 2019.  See United States v. Strain, 19-173 “H” (E.D. La.).  Trial in that matter is scheduled to begin on December 6, 2021.

U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division and thanks the Metropolitan Crime Commission for its assistance.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jordan Ginsberg, the Public Corruption Unit Chief, and Elizabeth Privitera, the Violent Crime Unit Chief, are in charge of the prosecution.