Louisiana news briefs

Former state health worker faces ethics charge

Former state health worker faces ethics charge
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The Louisiana Board of Ethics has filed charges against a former state health agency accountant arrested for the alleged theft of $1 million to reportedly feed her gambling addiction.
The charges against Deborah Crowder Loper were made public Friday on the board’s website. No public action was taken in advance of the charges being filed.
Loper faces an Aug. 5 trial date in state district court on theft, malfeasance in office and money laundering charges. She was arrested last June, accused of diverting the funds over a period of six years.
The Ethics Board said Loper violated state ethics law by receiving just over $1 million in Department of Health and Hospital funds “for her personal use, at a time in which she was not duly entitled, for the performance of the duties and responsibilities of her public job.”
Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen said the ethics board “felt she may have violated criminal provisions but also violated ethics provisions. It’s a different statute, criminal and civil.”
Allen said the ethics charge could bring a $10,000 fine per violation and a penalty of up to 1½ times “the amount she received to her economic benefit.”
The case has been forwarded to the Ethics Adjudicatory Board for hearing.
Loper was the manager of DHH’s financial management section, which was responsible for depositing revenue, reconciling bank statements and completing federal and state financial reports.
DHH hosted the 2009 annual National Association of State Human Services Finance Officers conference with an account set up at Capitol One Bank. Only Loper and now DHH Undersecretary Jeff Reynolds were authorized on the bank account. Reynolds directed her to close the account at the conference’s end, according to the ethics charges.
“Ms. Loper did not close the NASHSFO account and diverted DHH funds into the account for her personal use,” the ethics board said. “Ms. Loper diverted over 167 checks issued to DHH totaling approximately $1,058,446 to the ... bank account for her personal use.”

Firefighter fair sets records
THIBODAUX (AP) — Volunteer firefighters in Thibodaux said their annual fair returned a profit of about $750,000, a rebound from 2013 when bad weather cut attendance.
Fire Chief Randy Pat said the money will go toward growth of the department, including a new fire station in the Acadia Plantation subdivision.
Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department treasurer Mike Naquin says the May 1-4 fair set records for food sales, auction sales, donations, booster club sales and ride sales.
Fair revenue exceeded $1 million, while the fair itself cost about $330,000 to stage, he says.

Settlement approved in Acadian Ambulance lawsuit
LAFAYETTE — An Avoyelles Parish judge has approved a settlement in the $5.9 million class action lawsuit against Lafayette-based Acadian Ambulance company.
“No one objected to the settlement and it has been approved,” New Orleans attorney Larry Centola said.
Four-hundred forty Louisiana residents have filed claims that they were overcharged by Acadian Ambulance for services sometime in the last two decades.
The deadline to file a claim is July 24. Claims reimbursement should be distributed in September of October.
The settlement was approved Friday.
The lawsuit alleged Acadian was providing services to insured customers at an insurance-approved reduced rate for medical emergencies such as heart attacks. However, if a third party was at fault in a car accident, for example, Acadian would bill individual patients in full, not through the insurance company.
The class action lawsuit involved people who were billed by or paid for services from Acadian between Jan. 1, 1994, and Dec. 31, 2013.

Firefighter fair sets records
THIBODAUX (AP) — Volunteer firefighters in Thibodaux said their annual fair returned a profit of about $750,000, a rebound from 2013 when bad weather cut attendance.
Fire Chief Randy Pat said the money will go toward growth of the department, including a new fire station in the Acadia Plantation subdivision.
Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department treasurer Mike Naquin says the May 1-4 fair set records for food sales, auction sales, donations, booster club sales and ride sales.
Fair revenue exceeded $1 million, while the fair itself cost about $330,000 to stage, he says.

BP seeks return
of claim ‘overpayments’
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — BP wants a federal judge to order restitution — plus interest — of what it says are hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments to some businesses that claimed losses due to the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
In a Friday court filing, BP points to a revised policy for calculating losses that was approved by the court in May.
The company says the court should order recalculation of awards paid prior to that change.
Meanwhile, BP continues its legal fight on a related issue: whether businesses have to prove they were directly harmed by the spill to collect money. A district court and an appeals court have ruled that, under the settlement BP agreed to, proof of direct harm isn’t needed. BP has said it plans a Supreme Court appeal on that issue.

Nursing home employee accused of raping resident
MARRERO (AP) — Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies have arrested an employee of a Marrero nursing home for allegedly raping a 78-year-old resident.
Col. John Fortunato says 50-year-old Kenneth Whidden, of Westwego, was booked Friday with aggravated rape and sexual battery of the infirmed.
A nurse performing rounds at Wynhoven Healthcare Center around 2:30 a.m. Friday found Whidden, a certified nurse’s assistant, with his pants down and lying in bed with the woman. Suspecting some sort of sexual activity, staffers contacted the sheriff’s office.
Fortunato said when a detective questioned Whidden, he admitted to engaging in sexual activity with the woman.

Convicted in 1 death, man faces charges in 2 more
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — There was extra security in New Orleans federal court as a man already serving a life sentence after a state court conviction in one killing has pleaded not guilty — along with 12 co-defendants — on other charges.
Friday’s proceedings were held to deal with the latest federal charges against Telly Hankton and others.
An Orleans Parish jury convicted Hankton three years ago of killing Darnell Stewart outside a New Orleans lounge. Federal authorities had previously indicted Hankton for that death, plus the killing of Jesse Reed.
From The Associated Press.
Prosecutors now have filed new charges, accusing Hankton of gunning down a man named Darvin Bessie in 2006.
Federal prosecutors say Hankton and his co-defendants were involved in a crime organization that began in New Orleans in 1996.

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Phone: 337-828-3706
Fax: 337-828-2874

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P.O. Box 948, Morgan City, LA 70381
Phone: 985-384-8370
Fax: 985-384-4255

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