By Gordon Russell, Bob Warren and Ramon Antonio Vargas | Nola.com | August 29, 2019
Federal authorities announced Thursday that Jack Strain, once a looming political figure in St. Tammany Parish politics whose legacy is now tainted by political scandal and accusations of sex crimes, has been charged in a corruption case stemming from his tenure as St. Tammany sheriff.
Strain already faces aggravated rape and other charges in state court in St. Tammany Parish. The federal case involves a prison work release program attached to the Sheriff’s Office.
The federal indictment accuses Strain of 16 counts ranging from bribery to wire fraud.
U.S. Attorney Peter Strasser, in announcing the charges during a news conference with the FBI and IRS, said Strain had “a sacred duty to uphold and honor the public trust.
“Instead,” Strasser said, “he took undue advantage of his official position to unjustly enrich himself, his friends and his family at the expense of the taxpayer.”
Strasser said investigators launched their probe after receiving word from the Metropolitan Crime Commission, which had received a tip.
Federal authorities have probed Strain’s awarding of an inmate work-release contract to the children of two ranking deputies, who have pleaded guilty in connection with the case.
Clifford “Skip” Keen and David Hanson Sr., both former sheriff’s office captains, pleaded guilty in February to profiting from a department contract while maintaining their public employment in a scheme the federal government says involved Strain.
Hanson and Keen pleaded guilty in February to devising a kickback scheme with Strain that involved his privatizing a work release program in Slidell. Strain didn’t solicit competitive bids, simply giving the contract to run it to a company started by adult children of Hanson and Keen: Brandy Hanson and Jarret Keen.
Louisiana inmates reaching the end of their sentences can participate in a work-release program which allows them to work away from prison for a private company. The program involves inmates living in a secure facility resembling a dorm, and most of their wages go to the program’s operator.
In Strain’s case, court records say the program generated $1.2 million over three years for Brandy Hanson and Jarret Keen, who then turned much of that amount over to David Hanson and Skip Keen. The plea deals Hanson and Keen struck ensured their children will not be charged.
David Hanson and Skip Keen have said in court documents that they regularly paid cash – often in installments exceeding $1,000 – to Strain, though prosecutors have not said how much the payments totaled.
Strain earlier this month pleaded not guilty in St. Tammany Parish to state charges that he raped and molested underage boys over a period of decades. Those state charges stemmed from information investigators gathered as they probed the former sheriff’s financial dealings.
Strain was in office as sheriff for 20 years, ending in 2016. He was replaced by Sheriff Randy Smith.