New details emerge in Ladner scheme
By Dwayne Bremer
Jul 8, 2014, 20:57
New details have emerged in the case of former Hancock County Road Manager Roger Ladner, including revelations that a local contractor involved in the case cooperated with authorities and wore a wire to tape conversations between him or herself and Ladner.
Ladner, his wife and two of his brothers, pled guilty in December 2012, to various charges stemming from a "kick-back" scheme related to several ditch-cleaning contracts after Hurricane Katrina.
Ladner was sentenced to five-years in federal prison and is currently being imprisoned in Arkansas, according to court records.
Last year, Ladner petitioned the court to vacate his sentence and set him free.
Ladner claimed he had bad advice from his attorney and did not fully understand what the plea deal entailed.
Last month, federal Judge Halil Ozerden denied Ladner's request to vacate his sentence and another request to return part of the money Ladner forfeited to the government.
In his order, Ozerden laid out his reasons why Ladner's request should be denied, but also detailed some evidence in the case which has yet to be made public.
According to the order, prosecutors told Ladner that they would recommend he be sentenced in the "bottom 25 percent" of the sentence range if he pled guilty. That meant Ladner would receive a much more lenient sentence than the five-year maximum.
Judges, however, are not obligated to accept prosecutors' recommendations and Ozerden decided to sentence Ladner to the maximum.
Ozerden said his decision to sentence Ladner to the maximum of five years was influenced by several reasons including Ladner's alleged attempts to "conceal the scheme and mislead federal investigators."
The judge pointed to evidence in which a cooperating government witness secretly recorded Ladner discussing how to "get away with it."
"The movant (Ladner) became aware of a state and federal investigation into his conduct through another contractor who, unbeknownst to him, was cooperating with the government," Ozerden wrote.
"Recorded conversations between the two reveal that Ladner was fully aware that he was engaging in criminal conduct and that he told contractor to lie to authorities about Ladner's receipt of proceeds from the ditch-cleaning contracts. Ladner also told the contractor how to conceal Ladner's involvement, stating "really, all you gotta do, is write a 1099 and write it off on that, but I just don't want to put my-put it in my name and get connected up in anything."
The contractor who cooperated with the government was not named in the order. He or she was listed in a pre-trial investigative report, but that report was sealed by the court.
According to Ladner's indictment, all of the companies which were listed as being a party to the scheme operated in or near Hancock County.
In addition to stating the information about the informant, Ozerden cited Ladner's guilty plea and waiver of rights as a reason why his motion to vacate should be denied.
Prior to pleading guilty, Ladner signed documents saying he was voluntarily pleading guilty and was waiving any rights of appeal.
Last week, Ladner informed the court that he would be appealing Ozerden's decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.