Days before former prison warden Nate Cain faces trial on federal charges that he made thousands of dollars worth of improper purchases on the state's dime, one of his former underlings pleaded guilty in an Alexandria courtroom to a charge related to the case.

Court records show that Jodie Bordelon, a state corrections administrator whose state-issued credit card was used for many of the purchases flagged in investigations that led to Cain's criminal case, pleaded guilty Friday afternoon to concealing her knowledge of a felony. 

Bordelon remains employed in a clerical position at Raymond Laborde Correctional Center, formerly known as Avoyelles Correctional Center, Department of Corrections spokesman Ken Pastorick confirmed Friday afternoon. It was not immediately clear how the guilty plea would affect her employment status.  

Federal prosecutors late Thursday filed a bill of information in the Western District of Louisiana charging that Bordelon knew about the commission of a felony, yet did not report the criminal activity to authorities. Defendants charged in bills of information rather than by grand jury indictment have usually signed deals agreeing to plead guilty and cooperate with authorities.

The Thursday filing does not cite specific details about the aforementioned crime, but notes it occurred on or about Dec. 17, 2015, which is the date of one of the 17 alleged illegal purchases by Cain and his wife.

The charge, misprision of a felony, is one prosecutors often deploy against defendants who have agreed to help the government make its case. The crime carries a maximum sentence of three years in federal prison, but prosecutors will likely seek a far more lenient sentence in return for Bordelon's cooperation in Cain's trial, set to begin Monday.

Cain is charged with 17 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud during his time running the Cottonport prison. Prosecutors have amassed a long list of purchases they attribute to Cain, including furniture, guns and various personal items, as well as the unauthorized construction of a new prison ranch house.

They say Cain and his ex-wife, Tonia Bandy, made the purchases using credit cards billed to the state and assigned to other employees to avoid detection.

Bandy was initially charged alongside Cain in the case, but in July she pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She has not been sentenced in that case.

While the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years, Bandy, like Bordelon, will likely benefit from a request for leniency from prosecutors if she testifies next week at Cain's trial, as expected. Her sentencing has been rescheduled for April 12.  

Nate Cain, the son of legendary jailer Burl Cain, who resigned as warden of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in January 2016 amid questions over his business dealings, served as warden of what was then known as Avoyelles Correctional Center. In that role, Nate Cain promoted Bandy to business manager of the prison.

Both resigned from their corrections jobs in May 2016, amid probes of nepotism, possible fraud and other misconduct at the prison. The couple divorced the next year, and Bandy reverted to using her maiden name. 

Cain's attorney, John McLindon, said he and his client are prepared for the trial on Monday. He said he was not concerned about Bordelon's 11th-hour plea deal.  

“I think it actually helps me," McLindon said Friday. "It shows that, one, she’s a convicted felon, and, two, her goal is to stay out of jail. I’ll have a lot of questions for her about her motivations to plead guilty and testify on behalf of the government.”

McLindon said he expects both Bordelon and Bandy will testify at the trial next week, though the state's list of witnesses has not been made public. 

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Western District of Louisiana declined to comment, citing the pending trial. Bordelon's attorney, a court-appointed lawyer, could not be reached Friday. 

Bordelon figured in two legislative auditor reports in 2016, both of which highlighted potential misconduct during her work as a procurement specialist at the prison, where she often reviewed and made purchases for the state.

Auditors in 2016 questioned roughly $5,200 in purchases made with Bordelon's state-billed card in a six-month period, all of which were approved by Tonia Bandy and two other employees. Among the purchases, Bordelon's card was used to purchase $3,356 on bathroom fixtures, $1,000 on four high-end Yeti coolers, as well as other routine personal items like coffee, creamer, pet food and toilet paper.

The Advocate also highlighted furniture purchases totaling nearly $10,000 that were made with Bordelon's card at a store owned by Bordelon's husband. Corrections officials conceded at the time that those purchases likely violated state ethics laws, though the Ethics Board has not filed charges.   

At the time of those purchases, Bordelon reported directly to Bandy.

The second legislative audit focused on more than $30,000 of missing funds, which was supposed to benefit five clubs to help rehabilitate inmates. Auditors placed the blame on Bandy for the missing cash, as she was the only employee to regularly obtain or count the cash from concession sales alone, the report said.  

Bordelon, who was Bandy's subordinate and often helped count the cash, told auditors that Bandy made her delete her boss' initials from some paperwork after the missing money came under scrutiny. Bordelon said she also was directed to replace some original sales records with a set that had been altered and to shred some original records.

Bandy was indicted in Avoyelles Parish District Court in January 2017 following that report, on charges of theft of $25,000 or more, malfeasance and injuring public records. 

Nate Cain also faces a separate charge in state court for obstruction of justice, which stems from a 2016 investigation by state corrections officials that found the former warder undermined a probe into a rape allegation at his Cottonport prison. The allegations involved a sexual relationship between an inmate and a corrections officer at the lockup, which is considered rape under federal law, even when both parties consent.

Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles Riddle said both of those cases have been on hold while the federal court proceedings play out. 

The internal corrections probe never determined with certainty whether the corrections officer actually engaged in sexual acts with the inmate, but found that Cain and some of his employees interfered with the probe. A former major, Randon Harrington, who was indicted with Cain in the probe, was accused of coercing the inmate to drop his allegations, by threatening to send him to Camp J at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a notorious solitary confinement unit that shuttered last year due to worsening conditions. 

Cain, meanwhile, cut short a polygraph exam being administered to the officer accused in the rape. He also sent away a seasoned rape investigator from Angola who had been assigned to help in the probe.


Follow Grace Toohey on Twitter, @grace_2e.