Former St. Tammany sheriff’s deputies sentenced in kickback, bribery scheme

Published 12:45 pm Friday, October 8, 2021

U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans recently announced that David Hanson, 63, of Abita Springs, and Clifford “Skip” Keen, 53, of Covington were each sentenced Wednesday to 50 months imprisonment after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and soliciting a bribe.

The charges stemmed from their roles in the privatization of a work release program in Slidell that operated between 2013 and 2016. Additionally, the two were sentenced to three years of supervised release, a $10,000 fine and a $100 mandatory special assessment fee. Restitution was ordered without prejudice, with the amount to be determined at a later date.

According to court documents, Hanson and Keen, each of whom worked as captains with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office (STPSO) discussed with then-Sheriff Rodney J. (“Jack”) Strain about becoming owners of a work release program in Slidell, which Strain decided to privatize. Ultimately, Hanson, Keen and Strain agreed to make Keen’s adult son and Hanson’s adult daughter owners of the Slidell work release program.

Hanson, Keen and Strain also agreed to hire another individual to actually to operate the Slidell work release program, because Hanson’s daughter and Keen’s son lacked sufficient education, training, experience, or funding. The person they hired was presented a series of conditions: Hanson’s daughter and Keen’s son would each own 45 percent of the business and receive 45 percent of the profits; the operator would own 10 percent of the business and receive 10 percent of the profits, in addition to his salary.

On June 4, 2013, Strain entered into a cooperative endeavor agreement on behalf of STPSO with St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC, to operate the Slidell work release program. Although Hanson’s daughter and Keen’s son acted effectively as passive members and did not participate substantially in the operation, oversight, or administration of the Slidell work release program, the operator was required to pay them salaries, in addition to their ownership disbursements. The operator was also directed to pay an unnamed Strain relative and employee at STPSO approximately $30,000 per year for a no-show job at the Slidell work release program.

During the time St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC, operated the Slidell work release program, Hanson’s daughter and Keen’s son received not less than $1,195,000 from St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC, in the form of ownership disbursements, salary payments and occasional lump sum miscellaneous payments. They converted the majority of the money they received to cash and transferred a significant portion of the funds back to their fathers.

Additionally, it was understood that Strain would receive financial compensation from them in exchange for bestowing the right to operate the Slidell work release program on St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC. Hanson and Keen each gave Strain a portion of the payments they received in cash payoffs in amounts greater than $1,000 on a recurring basis. Hanson also arranged for Strain’s son to receive a check in the amount of $4,000.

Strain was indicted in a 16-count indictment by a federal grand jury separately on Aug. 29, 2019. Trial in that matter is scheduled to begin on Dec. 6, 2021.