Clad in orange prison garb, federal inmate 33411-034 — former St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan — pleaded guilty to state theft charges Thursday in a St. Tammany Parish courtroom.
As a part of his plea deal, Galvan, 55, agreed, in essence, to serve an extra year in prison and to pay restitution to the city of Slidell totaling $350,000. He owes $50,000 now and the rest by the end of October.
Galvan is already serving a two-year sentence at the federal prison in Pollock, where he has been since April 11.
He pleaded guilty Thursday to three separate theft charges, with each carrying a three-year prison term, all running concurrently with his federal sentence. When his federal sentence ends, Galvan will be transferred to a state facility to finish the remainder of his state term.
He was indicted in May by a state grand jury on three counts of theft over $1,500. Two of the counts involved funds stolen from the Coroner’s Office, and the third referred to money stolen from the city of Slidell. Under state law, he could have received 10 years in state prison on each count.
Galvan entered the 22nd Judicial District Court courtroom through a side door, accompanied by his lawyer, Billy Gibbens. He nodded and smiled to his wife standing at the back of the courtroom and conferred quietly with Gibbens while waiting for Judge August J. Hand to arrive.
When offering his plea, Galvan uttered simple “yes” and “no” answers, assuring the judge that he understood the ramifications of the deal he had made with the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. Galvan acknowledged there was a factual basis for his plea and said he had not been coerced.
When it was over, Galvan, accompanied by several deputies, was led back out the side door.
Assistant Attorney General David Caldwell said the AG’s Office wanted to make sure Galvan was forced to pay back some of the money he stole. Galvan, as coroner, had a $50,000-per-year contract with Slidell to provide medical services at the city’s jail. But later he had the city contract directly with his private medical practice, even as he continued to send a Coroner’s Office employee to perform the work.
“We were concerned about the city of Slidell and the jail services contract,” Caldwell said. “Peter Galvan had used the public office to get almost $400,000.”
The restitution Galvan paid as part of his deal with federal authorities “wasn’t enough for us,” Caldwell said.
Galvan pleaded guilty in October to a single federal count of conspiring to steal public funds. That guilty plea stemmed from a federal investigation into the lavish spending at the Coroner’s Office, where Galvan and his top aides received six-figure salaries and public money went to buy personal luxuries, including items for his boat and plane.
Though Galvan may be gone from the office, the excesses of his tenure still reverberate. In 2013, the Legislature passed a bill giving the Parish Council oversight over some of the coroner’s finances. The council set the salary for the office — won by Charles Preston in a spring special election — at $84,000 per year, far less than the approximately $200,000 Galvan had awarded himself.
The parish also is still pursuing restitution from Galvan for legal fees the Coroner’s Office paid during his tenure.
Meanwhile, the investigation into others who worked in Galvan’s office continues, Caldwell said. The federal indictment identified two co-conspirators who helped Galvan steal from the Coroner’s Office, identified as “Individual A” and “Individual B.”
Speculation about the identity of the co-conspirators has centered on Kim Kelly, the former chief financial officer for the Coroner’s Office, and former investigator Mark Lombard. Kelly, who resigned in May 2013, testified shortly before her resignation, and Galvan sent Lombard to fulfill the contract with the Slidell jail. Neither was charged in the federal case.
Caldwell would not name those being investigated but said that after Galvan was indicted on the theft charges in May, new information was brought to the Attorney General’s Office by the FBI.
“We do still have some things working in this case, potentially with other individuals,” Caldwell said.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.