A former marketing director at Dow Federal Credit Union in Plaquemine pleaded guilty Thursday in Baton Rouge federal court to a charge of mail fraud.
Ashley E. Braud, a 37-year-old Baton Rouge resident, admitted to U.S. District Judge Frank J. Polozola that she used credit union funds in August and September 2009 to purchase 30,000 “scratch-off tickets for her personal use.”
However, neither Braud’s charge nor her plea agreement mentions the value of those tickets. And Polozola insisted he will have that dollar amount before Braud is sentenced.
The plea agreement was signed by Braud, Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Patricia Jones and Braud’s attorney, John S. McLindon.
“We didn’t put a value on it,” McLindon told the judge.
He said both sides decided to allow that value to be decided by the U.S. Probation Office, which must file a pre-sentence report with the judge and both parties at least 35 days before sentencing.
That pre-sentence report, however, is not a public document.
Polozola told McLindon, Braud and Assistant U.S. Attorney Frederick A. Menner Jr. that he wants the dollar-value of the tickets and may require both sides to file their best estimates and evidence.
If all tickets were valued at $1, the judge said, the credit union may have lost $30,000. If the tickets’ average value was $5, then the loss may have been $150,000.
Polozola said Braud’s sentence should not exceed the guidelines covering the actual size of the credit union’s loss.
In addition, Polozola added, he needs accurate information to ensure proper restitution for the credit union.
“I think it (the value of the scratch-off tickets) is important,” the judge said.
“I’m sure she (Braud) knows” the value, Polozola said.
“She’s agreeing to plead guilty to the fraud,” McLindon replied.
Before receiving the guilty plea, the judge asked Braud whether she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Braud said she had not consumed alcohol, but noted that she takes medicine daily for lupus.
Polozola asked her whether she knew what she was about to do.
“I’m pleading guilty to mail fraud,” Braud said.
Polozola explained that mail fraud carries a possible penalty of 20 years in prison and possible fine of $250,000 in addition to any restitution he may order.
“Yes, your honor,” Braud replied.
“Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty of this crime?” the judge asked.
“Yes, sir,” replied Braud.
Polozola accepted the guilty plea and announced that Braud is convicted of mail fraud.
He did not immediately schedule a hearing for her sentencing.