ST. TAMMANY PARISH, La. (KLFY) — Former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Rodney “Jack” Strain pleaded guilty to receiving bribes in federal court on Wednesday, according to the Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s Office in Louisiana.
Strain, 56, of Abita Springs, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one charge of soliciting and receiving bribes involving contracts for privatization of work release programs in St. Tammany Parish. Strain was indicted on 16 charges in 2019; the guilty plea only applies to one of those counts, according to U.S. Attorney Duane Evans.
Strain served as sheriff from 1996 to 2016 and had the authority to privatize parish-run work release programs, which he did in 2013. According to the statement, Strain had a conversation with his two captains within the sheriff’s office, David Hanson and Clifford Keen, regarding becoming owners of the Slidell work release program.
Strain was told by St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office employees that state law prohibited Hanson and Keen from owning and operating the Slidell work release program as employees of the sheriff’s office. In order for the two men to operate the work release program, they would have to resign from the sheriff’s office. The three men then discussed ways that Hanson and Keen could operate the work release program while still employed with the sheriff’s office, according to Evans.
The men originally came up with a plan to allow others to be owners of the Slidell work release program while paying Hanson and Keen salaries. As such, Hanson and Keen would get much of the profits, and Strain and along with his selected family members would receive regular payoffs, according to Evans. The kickback to Strain was agreed upon from an earlier place of employment.
Hanson and Keen were charged for their roles in the scheme in November 2018. They pleaded guilty on February 27, 2019, and were each sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison by United States District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle on Oct. 6.
Strain faces a maximum term of imprisonment of up to 10 years. He also faces a fine of up to $250,000, up to three years supervised release after imprisonment, and a mandatory $100 special assessment fee. Strain has also acknowledged that he may be liable for restitution ordered by Judge Milazzo. He is set to be sentenced in March 2022.