Former Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office colonel to plead guilty in details scandal _lowres

Photo provided by WWL-TV -- Roy Austin

A former Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office colonel charged in an overbilling scheme involving off-duty deputy details intends to plead guilty next month, according to court documents.

Roy Austin, 69, who faces one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, is scheduled to enter his plea May 4 before U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt.

He faces up to five years in prison but could receive a more lenient punishment due in part to his lack of a criminal history.

Austin’s defense attorney, Robert Habans, did not return a phone call Friday seeking comment.

The overbilling scheme was outlined in a legislative audit released this month that accused Austin of charging several local business for security shifts that deputies had not actually worked.

Austin coordinated details by Sheriff’s Office personnel through an unlicensed private company, Austin Sales and Service, staffing major sporting events and festivals with off-duty deputies and police officers.

On many occasions, federal and state authorities say, Austin fraudulently inflated invoices and billed various businesses for the work of “ghost employees” who had no part in providing security at the events. The scheme dated back to 2009 and involved some $83,000 in allegedly fraudulent charges.

The scandal recently prompted Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s chief deputy, Gerald “Jerry” Ursin, to resign his position. Sources familiar with the federal and state inquiry have said Ursin will face federal charges in the case as well.

Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.