United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a Franklin woman was sentenced Thursday to 24 months in prison for stealing more than $61,500 from the company where she worked. Michelle Leann Berry-Ortemond, 41, of Franklin, La., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi on one count of wire fraud. She was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $55,346.66 restitution.
According to the May 25, 2016 guilty plea, Berry-Ortemond stole $61,696.41 from a Lafayette construction company from February 2010 to April 2011 while employed there. She forged and cashed forged checks, initiated wire transfers and accessed a line of credit in the corporation’s name without consent. The U.S. Secret Service conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert C. Abendroth is prosecuting the case.
United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a Breaux Bridge woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing more than $64,000 from a New Iberia company. Joan C. Edgar, 66, of Breaux Bridge, La., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna to one count of wire fraud.
The plea will become final when accepted by U.S. District Judge Dee D. Drell. According to the guilty plea, Edgar worked as an office manager for a New Iberia company. The company’s sole stockholder began negotiating with Edgar for her to buy the company in 2011, and while still working for the company, she stole $64,860. She concealed her actions by altering company records. Edgar faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, restitution and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date was not set. The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly P. Uebinger is prosecuting the case.
The Evangeline Parish Courthouse was very busy today as Judge Chuck West presided over a courtroom full of Assistant District Attorneys, Defense Council, and charged Defendants. Several Defendants chose not to enter into pleas with the State and will now continue to trial on October 3rd, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. In the case of The State of Louisiana vs. Rebecca Devillier, Docket No. 101922, it was ordered by Judge West that Devillier will stand trial on October 3rd as well. Devillier, a former employee of the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office, is charged with Count 1: IN THE PARISH OF EVANGELINE, the Defendant, Rebecca Lynn Devillier, on or between August 1, 2011 and September 30, 2014, committed the offense of Theft by misappropriation or taking, or by means of fraudulent conduct, practice or representations of U.S. Currency, having a value of $1,500.00 or more; and Count 2: : IN THE PARISH OF EVANGELINE, the Defendant, Rebecca Lynn Devillier, on or between August 1, 2011 and September 30, 2014, committed the offense of Malfeasance in Office by intentionally refusing or failing to perform any duty lawfully required of her, as such officer or employee.
Devillier’s attorney, Remy Jardell, out of Lafayette, was not present in court today and through stand-in defense council, Jacob Fusilier, she requested a continuance of the trial due to an illness in Jardell’s family. Judge Chuck West denied the Motion and set the case for trial stating “This has gone on long enough. This started in 2013 and we are going to get done with it.”
The Ville Platte Chamber of Commerce held its September meeting (today) Tuesday at Main Street Pizza and Pub in Ville Platte. Guest speakers included Jermaine Ford, SLCC Director of Corporate College and Allison Vanneck with the Miles Perret Cancer Center.
Mr. Ford spoke regarding a new Automotive Training Program being put together to be offered soon at the C.B. Coreil Campus in Ville Platte. The program will provide two levels of training, including Level 1: Maintenance and Light Repair, which will last 4 months and Level 2: Advanced Automotive, which will last 6 months. Ford said they will need 10 students to begin the training program and they hope to start in October. He said they currently have two individuals that have shown interest in the training. The Program is open to men and women who are interested in the automotive industry. They have partnered with Acadian Ambulance in their efforts and Ford said they already have dealerships such as John Young Automotive interested in recruiting from the Program. They hope to have companies with fleet vehicles and others who will allow their students to perform work on the vehicles for training purposes. If you would like more information on enrolling in the Program or to see how your business can help, please call (337) 521-9000.
Allison Vanneck, with the Miles Perret Cancer Center, spoke about the services that are provided to Cancer patients and their families through the Center. Vanneck said the Center is completely funded through donations and they do not have any federal funding. That is why their fundraising efforts are so very important. They offer medical supplies, treatment care, wigs, hats, bras and prosthesis, nutritional supplements, and many other services for Cancer patients. They even have a mobile unit that travels to different hospitals such as Savoy Cancer Center in Mamou, to provide their services to those who cannot travel to their Center in Lafayette. They service a 10- parish area and have provided services to over 13,000 families since their formation in 2002. Their biggest fundraiser is the “Games of Acadiana” which was held in Lafayette on August 20th. Their next big event is a 5k Camelia Crossing Glo-run called “I’m In”. It will take place on November 23rd. Log onto milesperret.org to see how you can donate or volunteer.
New members of the Chamber that were voted in include Cajun Partie, LLC and CASA of St. Landry.
The next Chamber meeting will be held on October 19th; The Annual Chamber Christmas Social is set for December 8th and The Annual Christmas Parade is scheduled for December 11th.
The Rotary Club of Ville Platte today (Tuesday) heard from Rene Simon with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture. Simon was the special guest of Rotarian Wayne Vidrine.
Simon said agriculture is an important part of the economy in Evangeline Parish. In fact, agriculture has a $140 million dollar impact on our local economy. It also plays a big part in our local culture.
He announced that the LSU Ag Center economist Dr. Kurt Guidry reported that the August floods caused a $277 million impact in crop and livestock losses. The rice crop took the biggest hit .
However, Evangeline Parish and Louisiana residents are “resilient and they will come back.” He reminded club members that in 2008, the state took a one billion dollar economic loss following Hurricane Gustave.
Louisiana Ag Commissioner Dr. Strain and other agriculture officials along with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards will be on a trade mission to Cuba in the next few weeks. The mission is to promote Louisiana rice consumption. He reported that the average Cuban consumes 180 pounds of rice a year, more than the Chinese. Cuba is a very poor country with the average citizen makes $20 a month while a surgeon makes $60 a month.
In other rotary club news, it was announced by Club President Peter Strawitz:
--the club made a $1000 donation to the Coreil Campus at South Louisiana Community College for equipment to the Welding department;
--approved a $1000 donation to the Casa to purchase office furniture for the new Casa (Court Appointed Special Advocate) office in Ville Platte;
--reminded club members that a membership and fellowship meeting is set for October 18 at Main Street Pizza at 6;00pm to invite potential new members to attend.
Ville Platte Man Killed in Weekend Crash
Evangeline Parish – On September 18, 2016, shortly after 2:20 a.m., Troopers from Louisiana State Police Troop I began investigating a fatal crash that occurred on LA 13 near Gilbert Road in Evangeline Parish. The crash took the life of 31year old Dustin Vidrine of Ville Platte, LA.
The initial investigation revealed 31 year-old Arthur Velasquez of Mamou was operating a 2006 Ford F-150 southbound on LA 13. For unknown reasons, Velasquez crossed the centerline, and struck a northbound 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, operated by 31 year-old Dustin Vidrine of Ville Platte.
Velasquez was not wearing a seat belt and sustained moderate injuries. He was transported to Opelousas General and is being treated for his injuries. Dustin Vidrine was properly restrained, but sustained fatal injuries. Vidrine was pronounced dead at the scene by the Evangeline Parish Coroner’s Office. Impairment is suspected to be a factor, but standard toxicology tests are pending on both drivers.
This crash remains under investigation and charges are pending.
Louisiana State Troopers wish to remind motorists that impaired driving continues to be a major problem throughout Louisiana. Whether impaired through alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two, the consequences of driving while impaired remain the same. Making good choices while in motor vehicles such as never driving while impaired, always ensuring every occupant is properly restrained, and avoiding all distractions can often mean the difference between life and death.
Troop I has investigated 37 fatality crashes resulting in 38 deaths as of this date in 2016.
Man Dies in Ville Platte House Fire
Ville Platte, LA – Investigators of the State Fire Marshal’s Office are continuing to examine the facts surrounding the cause of a residential structure fire where a man’s body was recovered.
Just before 1:00 a.m. Sunday, Ville Platte firefighters responded to a report of a fire at 724 Calcasieu Street where, upon their arrival, they found smoke and flames venting from a wood-framed home. While conducting suppression efforts, the lifeless body of James Malveaux, 62, was located within the residence, which was heavily damaged by fire.
State Fire Marshal investigators were then summoned to the scene to assist in determining the cause of this deadly fire.
After a thorough examination by investigators, the victim’s body was released to the Evangeline Parish Coroner for autopsy where an official cause of death will be determined.
After combing through the structure, investigators established that the fire originated within the southwest portion of the home where a number of possible heat sources were located.
The official cause of the fire, however, has not been determined at this time and the investigation continues.
There were no smoke alarms found in the residence.
Ladies and gentlemen of Evangeline Parish, as I stated in my two previous articles I promised you more information concerning how I run my department, both civil and criminal divisions. The Evangeline Parish Sheriff Office (EPSO) is divided into two divisions a civil division and a criminal division.
Our civil division is run by a Chief Civil Clerk. It was established many years ago that the Sheriff’s chief job was to be first the Tax Collector for his parish and secondly he was to be the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for this parish. The Sheriff is also referred to as the Keeper of the Jail. Most people believe that he is a law enforcement officer first and a tax collector second, however you may look at it, both jobs get done. These jobs get done because I took an oath when you elected me as your sheriff to be there in the good and the bad days and these are the few bad days, but we are persevering. I have faith that we will get this problem fixed to you the public’s satisfaction.
The civil division is where the taxes get collected, and then redistributed to the proper public entities. These public offices are funded by taxes and used for operating expenses. The civil division is also where you go for conducting business that concerns tax sales, seizures, banking business, attorneys, law suits, etc. The civil division also makes money by charging these different transactions performed for the public. The civil division is the "heart beat" for the parish’s business. It is funded by a 5 mil. tax called the "Ad Valorem Tax". This millage was established by the rewriting of the Louisiana Constitution in the mid-seventies.
As Keeper of the Jail, the Sheriff receives from the Evangeline Parish Police Jury $3.50 for each prisoner for operating expenses of the jail. You the public are also charged a 10% sales tax on all purchases you make in the parish, however the Sheriff’s Department does not receive one penny of this tax collected.
The administrator’s office and the entire civil division is located in the front portion of the courthouse. The administrator who conducts various duties such as payroll, billing, record keeping, etc. is set up in the front office also.
The criminal division which includes communications, the jail, criminal investigations, and a patrol division along with my personal office are all located in the rear of the courthouse. Evangeline Parish is home to 34,000 people who at one time or another seek me out with an assortment of problems that they need help with. I do try my best to solve these problems, and if I can’t I most certainly try to point them into the correct direction to someone who can help them.
The criminal division has no sales tax or millage to help support the operations of this division. This criminal division is as important maybe even more so than the civil division, but yet the criminal division gets little to no money to operate it. This division is the part of my job that I consider the most important because it deals with domestic disputes that have a variety of causes, thefts, bank robbery’s, rapes, murders, and a variety of other crimes. All of these crimes have to be investigated and this cost money. Money that must be found or generated. If the investigation of a crime takes 2 days or 2 weeks the investigators must be paid for their time. They work their regular shifts, and then depending on the investigation like for murders, they may work long hours until they get a break and solve the case which is never a guarantee. All of these investigations cost my department in excess of $150,000. My investigators always give me 100% effort. I’ve always said you have to love the job of law enforcement to settle for the little pay you get. I can be fierce when it comes to locating funding for my patrol officers and my investigators. I know the sacrifices they and their families make for the job of law enforcement.
We have a patrol division that works 24/7 so that when you call for assistance and officer responds.... However, due to the lack of funding it’s hard to keep enough patrolman on the road. This really, really makes me mad because I wish I could have more officers on patrol every shift, but I don’t have enough money. I would like to have every call responded to as quickly as possible and this is a large parish to cover, but the funding is not there. I fight for every dollar because when you call us I know you really need us. You voted for me to be your Sheriff three times. You voted for a law enforcement officer. This tells me that you trust me to protect you. But you the public don’t know that the criminal division does not automatically every year get the necessary funds needed to properly protect you. This fact makes for many sleepless nights on my part. This is the concern that I live with every day.
It is not only a problem that I face, other Sheriffs have this same fight also. Some parishes are richer than other parishes for varying reasons, for example more funding is available and special taxes are passed etc. This lack of adequate funding puts the Sheriff in the unique position of trying to raise funds just to pay basic expenses and any other unforeseen investigations that pop up randomly from month to month and the promise to the people to keep them safe.
As your Sheriff of Evangeline Parish, I’ve always promised to protect you and your family and all of the citizens of this parish and its people. I want you to be proud of where you live! I want you to feel safe where you live! I hope that I have given you the citizens an "eye opener of information" as to the funding of the criminal division of Evangeline Parish your home. I’m not exaggerating the situation I am trying to inform you of the dire situation in which we find ourselves the citizens of Evangeline Parish. The protection of all citizens of this parish is my greatest concern on a daily basis. Example, the housing of LA State prisoners was one way of getting the criminal division monies for funding of this department. I entered into an agreement to take in an overflow of prisoners from the state at a rate of $24.39 per day per prisoner. This extra money is used to help pay the operating expenses of the jail, and if able it is used to help fund the criminal division. This venture helped us and the state as well. A problem soon began to show itself. As time passed it was clear that the jail was in need of lots of repair to satisfy the state guidelines for housing prisoners. No matter how loud my voice was, no one was listening. The jail is still not able to pass a state inspection.
It was not a surprise to me, when the state removed its prisoners from our parish jail. The loss of the state prisoners cost the department in excess of $300,000.00 a year in revenue, monies urgently needed to help fund the criminal division. The building of the two centers one in Basile and one in Pine Prairie has helped with monies the last 5 or 6 years. I have been telling the police jury and frankly anyone I could talk to that the EPSO was being grossly underfunded. It became apparent that we were paying out more monies than we were taking in for the criminal division. It was also clear that nobody was listening or cared about the fact that the budget suffered several major losses in the funding for our criminal division. The public never really knew or thought of the possibility that this large loss of funding meant we as a parish had to absorb the monetary loss and try and try again to continue to operate afterwards as if we had enough money. It became real clear to me once again no one was listening to our pleas for help.
The first major loss of funding for the criminal division was the collapse of the Pine Prairie Police Department. I was required as the Sheriff, the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for the parish to just make it happen. I had to find monies for the patrol of the city by my officers, investigations of crimes by my officers, etc. This included the recent bank robbery in Pine Prairie. We had to investigate the escape of a parish prisoner in the Pine Prairie Jail who escaped from jail. Also, the recent murder in Turkey Creek required from us a large amount of man hours to investigate the crime and in turn required a large amount of expenses for our parish in talking with the public I get the impression that they never understood that the criminal division was responsible for the extra expense of running an investigation. Now you know. I hope you have a better understanding of where the criminal division must get its money and how it is dispersed in this division.
All the unexpected criminal activity can really drain the budget. Just in time came the sale of the Southwest LA Corrections to the GEO Group. We had to renegotiate a new contract with the GEO Group for the prisoners. With the help of our District Attorney Trent Brignac, this the possibility of monies for the criminal division came to pass. Soon after the sale, GEO Group closed the Pine Prairie center, and we lost money with less prisoners.
Ladies and gentlemen I’ll leave you with your thoughts. I hope that I’ve given you a better understanding of how my two divisions operate. My hope is and plans are to show the public the inside of Evangeline Parish Sheriff Department.
Eddie Soileau, Sheriff
Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Department
Ville Platte City Council Meeting
September 13, 2016
A large group of concerned residents from Shady Acres subdivision Tuesday packed the city council meeting room asking for the city’s assistance after the recent historic floods that damaged many of their homes last month. Spokesperson Faye Lemoine said she had water in her home three times in the last five years and the problem is no drainage. She said “We are financially and emotionally drained. We deserve to have good drainage.:
The city council voted to authorize the street department to begin immediately to clean out drainage ditches and authorize its city engineer to make an elevation study of the subdivision properties and make recommendations. The council also asked the engineer to make a drainage survey of the entire city.
The police jury is also expected to join in assisting through a cooperative endeavor agreement to clean out the major canals near Shady Acres.
In other business, the city council approved the purchase of five new police body cameras at a cost of nearly $900 each and a server for $4000 to download the videos from each camera. Also the city agreed to apply for a federal grant to purchase 20 additional cameras. The city of Ville Platte was among the very first cities in the state to buy body cameras for police officers a number of years ago.
Two representatives of Keep Evangeline Beautiful addressed the council. Becky Buller asked the city to remind residents to cut their grass to the curb side especially along Main, LaSalle and Lincoln. Sharon Fontenot received approval from the city to have Ville Platte be a collection point for a parish wide Electronic Waste Recycling Program next spring.
In other action, the city council:
--approved increasing the minimum wage for city employees from $7.25 to $8 an hour effective at the next pay period;
--approved accepting the donation of the old Heritage Manor Nursing Building and property. Mayor Jennifer Vidrine said the facility will be used as a public works building to house the city’s gas, water and sewer departments as well as most of its equipment;
--recognized a local Ville Platte team that won a national championship from the AAU;
--heard from CASA(Court Appointed Special Advocates) officials asking for the public’s help to find volunteers to assist in the monitoring of foster children. Currently there are 67 foster children in Evangeline Parish area homes;
--Fire Chief Chris Harrison was presented a special plaque of appreciation on behalf of the fire department and volunteers for helping rescue some 25 people from their homes and flooded out cars last month during the floods;
--also the city approved a liquor permit for the Louisiana Cotton Festival Association to sell alcoholic beverages during the festival and the council authorized the closure of Constitution Drive during the festival;
--approved applying for $50,000 worth of basketball courts and other recreational equipment for the north side city park;.
VILLE PLATTE ROTARY CLUB MEETING
SEPTEMBER 13, 2016
The Rotary Club of Ville Platte met today (Tuesday) at noon and heard from Rotarian State Farm Insurance Agent Eric Gil discuss flood insurance.
Gil said the most asked question he has been asked by customers “Do I need flood insurance?”
He said he was impressed with FEMA officials and how quickly they have been working processing claims and working with local residents. The fact that Evangeline Parish was declared a disaster area helped tremendously.
He said flood insurance coverage can range from $25,000 to $250,000 on the structure with deductibles from $1,000 to $10,000.
Gil said Hurricane Katrina helped make people realize that flood coverage is not included in your standard insurance policy.
He also mentioned flood coverage on your vehicle is handled through comprehensive coverage. He reported that as of two weeks ago some 20,000 vehicles were declared as totaled by State Farm insurance due to the flood. He expects the number to double once all the claims are in.
Eric Gil was the guest speaker of Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine.
Rotary Club President Peter Strawitz announced that October 18 there will be a fellowship meeting at 6;00pm at Main Street Pizza where potential new members will be invited. There will be no noon meeting that day.
The Evangeline Parish Police Jury held its monthly meeting Monday night in the Police Jury Room at the Evangeline Parish Courthouse. The meeting was postponed from last week due to the Labor Day holiday. There were three appointments to various districts on the agenda. One of those appointments was the appointment to the Te Mamou Water District. Police Juror, Bryan Vidrine, recommended appointing Jason Fontenot to the Board, while Juror, Daniel Arvie, recommended appointing Darwin Lazard to the Board. Things became a bit tense when Vidrine stated that according to the “requirements set by the Police Jury” for someone to be considered for an appointment by the Jury, they must first complete the necessary forms. And, that Lazard had not done that. Arvie and Juror, Ryan Leday Williams, both pointed out that there was no problem with getting the required form. Arvie stated he did not know a form was required. Vidrine stated that the Jury is who passed the requirements and that he himself had gone to Mr. Fontenot and told him to submit the form. He said Arvie should have done the same. So, with a 3 to 3 tie vote on the matter, President Ryan Ardoin, opted to “not vote” to break the tie. He then declared no action would be taken. Two more appointments were made: Troy West was appointed to the Eunice Gravity Drainage District #9 and Roderick Thibodeaux was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Evangeline Parish Water District No. 1. Those recommendations came from those respective committees.
Earlier, Evangeline Parish Assessor, Dirk Deville, addressed the Jury regarding millages and reassessments. He stated that if reassessments are not done, new property owners who will pay market value will be the only ones paying the majority of taxes based on market value. Once every four years they adjust based on deflation, inflation and new home values.
Public Works Director, Chester Granger, addressed the Board and said the money that has been spent on the sewer system is almost gone. The Budget had allowed for $6,000.00 until the end of the year and as of September, he has had to spend $5,239.00. He said the sites has been poorly maintained and he has had to get them up to speed, otherwise he would keep getting fines from the DEQ. The Jury took recommendations from Granger about cutbacks but then decided to go back and amend the budget for that department.
The Jury approved the hiring of Lauren Manuel as the new part-time receptionist at the Police Jury office. She will replace the late Jan Godfrey who was with the Police Jury for 37 years. Juror, Sidney Fontenot, recommended to the Jury that a picture of Ms. Godfrey be hung in the Police Jury Room for her service of over 35 years.
President Ryan Ardoin, reminded everyone that prayer service takes place every Tuesday night in front of the Courthouse at 6:00 p.m. Also, the Police Jury will begin advertising for CDL drivers as there is a need in the Parish.
Ardoin’s Funeral Home of Ville Platte held their 14th Annual Appreciation Day today (Friday) for all of the First Responders. The staff served BBQ Boston Butt dinners with the trimmings. Local Funeral Home General Manager Lowell Sibille said to KVPI News “We do this because our first responders are not recognized for the hard work they do four our community and this is our way of saying thank you. Due to the events that have been taken place, more than ever, we need to show our appreciation for these first responders that put their lives on the line for our safety.”
KVPI ‘s Becky Vidrine covered the event and spoke with Ville Platte Police Chief Neil Lartigue, Fire Chief Chris Harrison and Clerk of Court Randy Deshotel along with several local police officers and fire fighters.
The appreciation event is held every year near the anniversary of 9-11.
*********Press Release*********** Due to unfavorable weather forecast and track conditions, The Louisiana Tournoi Qualification that was scheduled for this Sunday, September 11th has been re-scheduled for Sept. 18th @ 2pm. Riders will need to report to track at 1pm.
The Evangeline Parish School Board met Wednesday night in the School Board Media Center. Chief Financial Officer for the School Board, Amy Lafleur, addressed the Board about the 2015-2016 Revised General Fund Budget. Lafleur reported that the revised budget, which had an expected deficit of $564,881.08, actually had a deficit of $1,090,073.57. Three other budgets were discussed from the 2015-2016 year. The budgets from the Parish Wide Maintenance Fund came in with a surplus of $206,276.86, the Basile Maintenance Fund came in with a surplus of $173,870.30 and the Basile High School Athletic Fund came in with a surplus of $8,241.41. The Board voted to adopt the revised budgets along with the 2016-2017 Consolidated Budget.
The Board approved the purchase of CLEP Vouchers for high schools. These vouchers are used for students to “test out” of classes and receive college credits in return.
Superintendent of Schools, Toni Hamlin, reported that there will be an additional MFP student count taken on September 16th because of the flooding and get a better count on children who have been displaced. She said three students to date have been displaced. Hamlin also stated that twenty-five students in the Parish have been identified as “homeless” after meeting the criteria. She stated how sad it is to see the “level of need and poverty with some of our families.” Hamlin stated the Official MFP Count will be performed on October 1st.
Those residents in Evangeline Parish who reside on Attales Road, Johnson Road and Whispering Pine Lane will have their water shut off Thursday morning for approximately four hours for the re-routing of a 6-inch main line. After water is restored, those residents will be under a boil advisory until further notice. If residents need additional information, they can call 337-363-5885
FROM: THE DESK OF THE SHERIFF Dear Citizens of Evangeline Parish:
In my previous article in the Ville Platte Gazette on September 1, 2016, I promised to you the public that I would keep you up to date on the Investigation into the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office recent budget shortfalls and unavoidable layoffs along with the budget cuts. This Investigation is being conducted by my office and the departments CPA firm.
PHASE ONE: Phase one of this Investigation is complete, and I will inform you the public of all findings from the Investigations thus far. The CPA firm and I have discovered due to improper bookkeeping practices, transferring of monies from one fund to another, and cover-ups by the guilty since 2015 have led to the budget shortfalls. With the guidance, of our CPA firm the proper steps are being taken to get the budget back on track. The CPA is overseeing the corrections that are needed to be made to the Administrator’s office, and also the handling of the budget. This will ensure that this kind of problem never happens again especially on my watch, I promise this to you the public.
PHASE TWO: This phase will inform the public of all the findings from the Investigation thus far. I will break down all the problems that led us here. I assure you the public that you will know everything. In the near future I will have an article in the Ville Platte Gazette explaining how the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office works. When I am done hopefully you have a complete picture of the workings of our office, yours and mine.
I will explain how both the Civil and Criminal Departments are funded, where the funds come from, and how the funds are spent. It will be a complete picture of the budget broken down in detail. I feel sure this will be an eye opener to you the public. I have been your Sheriff for almost 9 years, and a public servant for 20 years. I can confidently tell you the public that I have nothing to hide from you. I will do my best to see that you are happy with all the information you will need to come to a satisfied conclusion. The Evangeline Parish Police Jury, the governing authority of our parish called a special meeting on August 24, 2016 to discuss budget cuts and recent layoffs at the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office. The meeting was supposedly held to get information about the budget, but the problem was there was no information to get or give at the time. It was too soon in the discovery of the problem and investigation. That did not stop the Evangeline Parish Police Jury from conducting a “witch hunt”, and I was the hunted. This meeting was held to get the attention of the public away from the fact that I have been telling the Evangeline Parish Police Jury for 5 years, as early as August 9, 2016 that my budget was being seriously underfunded. Their only response was that they were broke so I was responsible for finding my missing funds from somewhere else. I feel they took the “monkey off their back and with total disregard for myself and our office and just threw me under the bus.” Nothing was accomplished at this meeting except for a bunch of name calling and wrong information.
These were the reasons I did not attend this meeting. I was not going to say something, or just anything to the public in the very beginning of the Investigation, as there was just questions and no answers at the time.
I knew you the public would want to know what was going on, and I had no accurate explanations to give you. This is why I asked for your patience while this Investigation was on going.
I promise to you the people of Evangeline Parish that I will provide the best service that I can with the monies at hand, just like I always have. I live here too, and I love this parish. I was born and raised in Evangeline Parish so I am fighting for you the public whom ultimately I answer to. You are my Boss, and I have only to answer to you since you have elected me your Sheriff.
Ladies & Gentlemen of Evangeline Parish I ask of you to support your 2nd amendment right of the United States Constitution of the United States of America, as may be in the near future the only protection you may have. If able, do what you “think” you need to do to protect the lives of you and your family. NOT YOUR PROPERTY!
Thank you to the great Citizens of Evangeline Parish.
Respectfully yours, Eddie Soileau, Sheriff
According to the Ville Platte Police Department, the following individuals have recently been arrested and booked into the Ville Platte City Jail:
Jimmy Dunaway of W. LaSalle – arrested for Disturbing the Peace by Disorderly Language and currently incarcerated with a $200.00 bond;
Francena Sims, age 31 of N. Latour – arrested for Domestic Abuse Battery and Simple Criminal Damage and out on a $1,700.00 bond;
Johnathan Bias, age 23 of S. Dupre – arrested for Domestic Abuse Battery and out on a $1,000.00 bond;
Zackery Willis, age 31 of Prosper Street – arrested for Theft of Goods and out on a $500.00 bond;
Cathy Voorhies, age 45 of S. Stagg – arrested for Improper Supervision and out on a $250.00 bond;
Dylan Reed, age 21 of 167 Barkley – arrested for Domestic Abuse Battery and out on a $1,000.00 bond; and
Kizzie Cullivan, age 37 of W. Hickory – arrested for No Reflective Gear, Disturbing the Peace, Obstruction of Passage and Public Intoxication and out on a $800.00 bond.
Disaster Recovery Center Opens in Evangeline Parish Sunday
A MOBILE DISASTER RECOVERY CENTER HAS OPENED IN EVANGELINE PARISH AT THE NORTH SIDE CIVIC CENTER, 7-0-4 NORTH SOILEAU STREET IN VILLE PLATTE. FLOOD SURVIVORS CAN RECEIVE RECOVERY ASSISTANCE FROM FEMA, THE U-S SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION AND OTHERS. THE CENTER WILL BE OPEN 8 A-M TO 6 P-M SEVEN DAYS A WEEK UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. IF POSSIBLE, PEOPLE SHOULD REGISTER FOR FEDERAL ASSISTANCE BEFORE VISITING THE CENTER. SURVIVORS CAN REGISTER ONLINE AT DISASTER ASSISTANCE DOT GOV OR BY PHONE AT 800-6-2-1-3-3-6-2. HELP IS AVAILABLE IN MOST LANGUAGES AND PHONE LINES ARE OPEN 6 A-M TO 10 P-M SEVEN DAYS A WEEK UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
SHREVEPORT, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a federal grand jury returned a 32-count indictment, unsealed today, charging six company officials of Explo Systems Inc. of defrauding the federal government and committing federal offenses relating to a munitions demilitarization contract with the U.S. Army.
Explo owner David Perry Fincher, 68, of Burns, Tenn.; owner David Alan Smith, 61, of Winchester, Ky.; Vice Present of Operations William Terry Wright, 62, of Bossier City, La.; Program Manager Kenneth Wayne Lampkin, 64, of Haughton, La.; Traffic and Inventory Control Manager Lionel Wayne Koons, 57, of Haughton; and Director of Engineering and Environmental Control Charles Ferris Callihan, 66, of Shreveport, were all charged with one count of criminal conspiracy. The indictment also charges multiple counts of making false statements to a federal agency or official and wire fraud. See Appendix.
Explo Systems Inc. is a private company whose primary business operations involved the demilitarization of military munitions and the subsequent resale of the recovered energetic materials for mining operations. According to the indictment, the U.S. Army awarded Explo a contract on March 24, 2010 to dispose of 450,000 155 mm artillery propelling charges designated as M119A2 for $2,902,500. The Army and Explo officials later amended the contract on March 6, 2012 to dispose of 1,350,000 charges for $8,617,500. Once Explo demilitarized the propelling charge, ownership of the residual components (M6 propellant or M6) transferred to Explo. The contract required Explo to properly store and dispose of the demilitarized M6. The contract also required Explo to document the sale of the demilitarized M6 by completing an End User Certificate (EUC). On the EUC, the purchaser of the demilitarized M6 certified the purchase and compliance with applicable federal laws. Once the EUCs were certified, Explo submitted the EUCs to the Army.
On October 15, 2012, an explosion occurred at a munitions storage igloo on Camp Minden. The explosion contained approximately 124,190 pounds of smokeless powder and a box van trailer containing approximately 42,240 pounds of demilitarized M6. The damage destroyed the igloo and trailer, shattered windows of dwellings within a four-mile radius, and derailed 11 rail cars near the storage igloo.
The indictment alleges that the defendants made false statements to the Army’s Joint Munitions Command (JMC) to procure and maintain the M6 demilitarization contract; caused the improper and unsafe storage of demilitarized M6 propellant and other explosive material on Explo’s Camp Minden facility; obstructed and impeded government inspections and examinations of areas of the facility where the explosive materials were improperly stored; caused third parties to sign off on EUCs as purchasers when in fact no sales had occurred; caused false EUCs containing forged and fabricated signatures to be submitted to the JMC; caused the improper storage and subsequent transportation of reactive hazardous waste to unpermitted non-hazardous waste landfills in Louisiana and Arkansas to make room for storage of M6 propellant at Camp Minden; and made false statements after the October 15, 2012 explosion to government officials and others in order to conceal their illegal conduct and prevent discovery of improperly stored M6.
“Companies tasked with the demilitarization of military grade explosives are required to properly document, safely store and dispose of these materials,” said U.S. Attorney Finley. “These measures are taken to protect the public and the environment. Any business that does not honor its contract or abide by federal and state laws will be prosecuted.”
“We are very pleased with today’s announcement,” said Frank Robey, Director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit. “Fortunately, no one was injured, and these indictments will serve as a strong deterrent to those thinking of defrauding the government.”
“These indictments demonstrate that EPA, and its law enforcement partners will hold accountable those who fail to comply with the laws that protect our communities,” said Chris Brooks Special Agent in Charge, Dallas Region, EPA-Criminal Investigation Division.
The defendants face five years in prison for the conspiracy count, five years in prison for each false statement count, and 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count. They also face a $250,000 fine and three to five years of supervised release for each count.
The Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation, Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service, FBI, and the Louisiana State Police-Emergency Service Unit investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl M. Campbell is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
DEFENDANTS AND CHARGES
David Perry Fincher: Criminal conspiracy (count 1); false statements (counts 2-24); wire fraud (counts 27-32)
David Alan Smith: Criminal conspiracy (count 1); false statements (counts 2-24); wire fraud (counts 27-32)
William Terry Wright: Criminal conspiracy (count 1); false statements (counts 2-24); wire fraud (counts 27-32)
Kenneth Wayne Lampkin: Criminal conspiracy (count 1); false statements (counts 2-24); wire fraud (counts 27-32)
Lionel Wayne Koons: Criminal conspiracy (count 1); false statements (counts 2-24; 26); wire fraud (counts 27-32)
Charles Ferris Callihan: Criminal conspiracy (count 1); false statement (count 25)
ALEXANDRIA, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a Lecompte man was sentenced Monday to one year and one day in prison for taking more than $125,000.
Glen Wayne Williams, 56, of Lecompte, La., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dee D. Drell on one count of theft of government property. He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $125,456.18 restitution. According to evidence presented at the May 20, 2016 guilty plea, Williams applied for and received Social Security Income (SSI) based on a disability beginning in November of 1995. However, Williams also received disability payments from his employer which he did not disclose to the Social Security Administration as required. The private disability income made Williams ineligible for the SSI he was paid from 1995 through 2014. Williams unlawfully received a total of $125,456.18 from the Social Security Administration.
The Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike O’Mara prosecuted the case.