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State education school board official faces fraud allegations

Besides the obvious blemish to reputation, criminal allegations can severely tarnish a person's professional career in Lake Charles, Louisiana and beyond. A person's legacy is compromised; accolades and achievements are disregarded. A Louisiana education board member is facing this scenario after being accused of public contract fraud and felony charges of theft.

Once considered for a Superintendent of the Year award, the board member posted $50,000 bail hours after being indicted and booked at the DeSoto Detention Center. He is set to be arraigned in early February for charges which were the result of a report that was made by the office of the state Legislative Auditor. The auditor caught wind of the allegations after a Louisiana newspaper conducted an investigation.

A fellow board member also filed a complaint to the school board about the man's expenses. The complaint was later referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which recommended it to the state auditors. According to auditors, from 2009 to 2012, when he was superintendent, the man allegedly double-billed costs to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the school district.

The two counts of theft he is facing are from his alleged failure to reimburse for fuel expenses amounting to almost $4,000. Another count is for the meal and hotel expenses which totaled more than $1,500. The fraud charge stemmed from a leased vehicle which he returned early, resulting in a $10,000 early termination fee.

Although indicted, he still serves the BESE because Louisiana law requires that only convicted officials resign from office.

A Calcasieu Parish resident in a similar situation should establish a strong defense in an effort to dismiss the charges. Although allegations can be damaging, a dismissal can vindicate a resident's assertion of innocence.

Source: Thetowntalk.com, "La. Education official Lee indicted on theft, fraud charges," Vickie Welborn, Jan. 17, 2014

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