The fourth guilty plea in the federal investigation into a bribery scheme involving District Attorney Mike Harson’s office has widened beyond the office itself. Elaine Crump of Lafayette, a former case manager for the nonprofit Acadiana Outreach Center, admitted she accepted money for helping falsify community service documents for OWI and other defendants and on Tuesday pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony for failing to report the bribery scheme.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says the 59-year-old got between $1,000 and $2,000 for her participation, in payments ranging from $25 to $100 in cash.
As The IND previously reported, Crump’s signature appeared on some OWI defendants’ community service certification forms even after she was terminated — one for hours completed nearly nine months before the person was even arrested for OWI.
With the help of at least three employees of the DA’s office and one unnamed co-conspirator — whom The IND has identified as private investigator Robert Williamson — Crump participated in a scheme that provided favorable treatment for those charged with OWIs and other crimes. Through the process known as an “immediate 894,” defendants appeared before District Judge Ed Rubin, pleaded guilty and instantly had their convictions set aside and expunged from their records after purportedly completing a series of court requirements: community service, substance abuse counseling and driver safety training. In some cases, as evidenced by Crump’s guilty plea, those requirements were not met, but the defendants were still let off the hook because of the coordinated efforts of Williamson, Crump and the DA’s office.
Harson created the local program based on the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure 894.
Crump’s guilty plea in the ongoing investigation follows that of Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams, 44, who handled traffic prosecutions in the 15th Judicial District, and his secretary, Denease Curry, 46.
Their pleas came on the heels of Harson’s 58-year-old secretary, Barna Haynes, admitting that she, too, played a major role in the scheme, accepting $55,000 in bribes over a four-year period (the feds contend she got upwards of $70,000) to help defendants receive favorable outcomes in court. All four of those who have pleaded guilty admit they were bribed by co-conspirator #1, Williamson, who has not been charged.
Crump, Williams and Curry face up to three years in prison and Haynes faces up to five years. All have agreed to cooperate fully in the investigation.
According to her guilty plea, in September 2007 Crump began working at Acadiana Outreach as an intake specialist. In 2009, she was promoted to the position of case manager and in early 2010 was approached by a former Acadiana Outreach case manager she had worked with from September of 2007 to October of 2009. The case manager, whom the feds did not identify, confessed to Crump that she had been creating false Acadiana Outreach community service certificates while employed as a case manager. The certificates falsified that individuals had completed court-mandated community service.
Because she was no longer employed by Acadiana Outreach, the former case manager asked Crump to assist her with continuing the fraud and proposed to Crump that she, the former case manager, would continue preparing fraudulent Acadiana Outreach certificates on official letterhead, and in exchange for payments, Crump would allow her to forge her signature on the fraudulent certificates. Crump agreed, the feds say, knowing full well the falsified certificates would be filed in the criminal court record. Crump received regular payments from the former case manager ranging from $25 to $100 in cash.
The feds say Crump understood that the former case manager was being paid by another individual who was obtaining the false certificates. In an effort to avoid detection, the former case manager would provide Crump with the names of the individuals for whom the former case manager had prepared false certificates and the number of completed community service hours reflected on the fraudulent certificates, enabling Crump to falsely verify the accuracy of the certificates if questioned by employees of Acadiana Outreach or courthouse staff.
In September 2011, shortly after Crump was laid off from Acadiana Outreach, the former case manager proposed to Crump that she would continue forging Crump’s name on the documents but would backdate them to the time Crump was employed by Acadiana Outreach. Crump agreed and continued to receive payments. (Acadiana Outreach says Crump was fired in August and that it cooperated fully in the investigation.)
“Those involved in this bribery scheme have put their own interests above that of the criminal justice system,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said in announcing the most recent guilty plea. “Crump’s work at the Outreach Center was an important part of the 894 process and was designed to help people and assist in protecting the public, not to help facilitate Crump’s greed."