by David M. Reutter
“Yes, sir,” said Nathan Burl Cain II.
With that reply in March 2019, the former warden of Louisiana’s Avoyelles Correctional Center, now known as the Raymond Laborde Correctional Center, abruptly ended his federal trial on corruption charges. Facing 17 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for misappropriating public money, Cain, 51, entered a guilty plea to two counts of wire fraud related to a gun purchase.
As previously reported in PLN, Cain and his ex-wife, Tonia Bandy-Cain, who worked in the prison’s business office, were accused of using $152,000 in prison funds to make personal purchases on state credit cards. [See: PLN, May 2018, p.44; Jan. 2018, p.42]. The items they bought, ranging from flat screen TVs to toilet paper, were discovered at the couple’s home during a 2016 raid, according to testimony from Nicole Compton, an investigator with the Louisiana Office of Inspector General. The Cains also purchased construction materials to quietly build a new house on prison property.
“This is a case about the abuse of power and the violation of trust,” said Luke Walker, an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. “This is the Department of Corrections’ money – this is taxpayer money he was spending.”
Prosecutors found two sets of floor plans for the house on prison grounds, one showing a conference room and offices, another showing a family room and bedrooms. The residence was located near the front of the property, so Cain’s attorney, John McLindon, attempted to argue that his client couldn’t have been trying to conceal anything improper about the home, which was alternately referred to as a “ranch house” and a “special operations center.”
Bandy pleaded guilty in 2016. As she was about to testify against Cain on the third day of his trial, Cain’s attorney approached prosecutors about a plea deal. Jodie Bordelon, a former subordinate of Cain’s who had also pleaded guilty to concealing her knowledge of the crimes – it was her state credit card that was used for some of the purchases – was also scheduled to testify against Cain, as was his former boss, Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc. LeBlanc’s reputation suffered from his close personal relationship with the Cains, though he was not indicted or fired.
“We really didn’t give [Cain and his defense attorney] anything,” U.S. Attorney David Joseph said. “We gave them two, 20-year counts of the indictment, each has a maximum penalty of 20 years. We don’t expect the sentence to exceed that, so we felt like it was a fair plea.”
Cain, the son of former Angola prison warden Burl Cain – who resigned amid an investigation into his own business dealings that did not result in any criminal charges – expressed his satisfaction with the outcome.
“The government treated me very fairly, and I take responsibility for the two counts I pleaded to and I’m very thankful and happy for what happened,” he stated.
McLindon said the other counts were dismissed and Cain will serve some prison time once he is sentenced. He added the government would seek the full $152,000 in restitution at sentencing, although the guns and gun parts that Cain purchased using state funds reportedly cost around $1,000.
“Even though he’s only pled to two counts, it wouldn’t be uncommon for the judge to consider the entire scheme,” said Loyola Law School professor Dane Ciolino. “The odds are the judge was going to use the larger number, that’s what usually happens.”
Cain was sentenced to 38 months in federal prison on June 20, 2019, plus two years of supervised release. His ex-wife was sentenced at the same time to eight months in prison and two years of supervised release. Both were ordered to pay $42,501.95 in joint and several restitution. See: United States v. Cain, U.S.D.C. (W.D. La.), Case No. 1:17-cr-00204-DDD-JPM.
Cain faces separate charges for obstructing a federal probe into an alleged sexual relationship between an Avoyelles guard and prisoner, which is considered rape because prisoners cannot consent to such relationships. A former major at the prison, Randon Harrington, is accused of trying to intimidate the prisoner by threatening to transfer him to solitary confinement if he didn’t drop his accusations against the guard.
Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle said both the rape and obstruction charges had been placed on hold pending the outcome of Cain’s federal prosecution.
Sources: The Advocate, kalb.com, watchdog.com
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