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Guilty Pleas in Angola Horse Selling Scheme

by David M. Reutter

A federal investigation uncovered a fraudulent scheme at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in which horses were sold to private parties, bypassing required public auctions. Two indictments were handed down that resulted in guilty pleas.

On September 19, 2007, a federal grand jury returned an indictment that charged Angola worker Julius Harold “Buddy” Truax with four counts of mail fraud. According to the indictment, which remained sealed until 2009, Truax col-luded with director of Prison Enterprises James H. Leslie and other individuals to sell horses directly to private buyers. Prison Enterprises raises horses at Angola for use in prison agricultural programs and for sale to state agencies and cer-tain non-profit organizations, through competitive bidding at public auctions.
In one case, however, a horse was taken to a stockyard, remained in a state-owned trailer while a private buyer deliv-ered a check, and then taken by state employees to the buyer’s home. Paperwork was fabricated to indicate it had been sold at auction. Truax was allegedly involved in the illegal sale of at least seven horses between 2005 and 2006.

A second indictment named Leslie, who was charged with using intimidation or force against a witness. Leslie report-edly tipped off Dan Klein, the state contractor for the Angola Prison Rodeo, about an FBI investigation. The FBI was in-vestigating an incident in which Leslie had provided free fertilizer-seed to Klein from Prison Enterprises, which had been purchased with state funds. Leslie agreed to wear a wire and record a meeting with Klein. However, he informed Klein about the FBI investigation and told him to “shut up and never say nothing,” explaining “if they ever found out that I told you .... I’d go to prison.”

Truax pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced on December 8, 2009 to one month on probation, suspended. According to the factual basis for his guilty plea entered into court by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, had the case proceeded to trial the government would have shown that Truax sold horses from Angola directly to a third party on multiple occa-sions, circumventing required public auctions. See: United States v. Truax, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Louisiana), Case No. 3:07-cr-00226-TLM-CN.

Leslie pleaded guilty and was sentenced on May 12, 2010 to five months imprisonment plus two years supervised re-lease, and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. He was not charged in connection with the horse selling scheme, even though he reportedly bought one of the Angola horses himself, because he had agreed to cooperate with federal officials in that case. See: United States v. Leslie, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Louisiana), Case No. 3:06-cr-00028-FJP-SCR.

Additional source: The Advocate

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Related legal cases

United States v. Leslie

United States v. Truax