The ex-wife and co-defendant of former Louisiana prison warden Nate Cain pleaded guilty Monday to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the federal corruption case in which Cain and she are charged, according to court records.
Tonia Bandy, who divorced Nate Cain in November and has asked to return to her maiden name of Bandy, entered her plea at the federal courthouse in Alexandria.
Both Bandy and Cain faced a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud as well as 17 counts of wire fraud. In pleading guilty and getting the government to drop the 17 fraud charges, Bandy has greatly reduced her potential punishment — although a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Louisiana noted that she still faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. She is likely to receive a far more lenient sentence, however.
Bandy’s plea deal presumably will require her to testify against Cain, if necessary. Her sentencing has been tentatively set for Oct. 9.
Cain, 51, is the eldest son of Burl Cain, the former longtime warden of the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
The younger Cain served as warden of the Avoyelles Correctional Center, now known as the Raymond Laborde Correctional Center, and in that role, he promoted Bandy, now 43, to business manager of the prison.
A grand jury indictment accused the two of using state-billed credit cards to make dozens of personal purchases, ranging from furniture and televisions to guns and ammunition, while running the Cottonport prison. The indictment also alleged they illegally "structured" the purchases in smaller increments so as to avoid detection.
While neither Bandy nor Nate Cain had a state credit card in their own name, investigators say they directed subordinates who did have such cards to buy things for them.
Bandy’s lawyer, public defender Cristie Gautreaux Gibbens, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.
Nate Cain’s lawyer, John McLindon, has said it's possible his client also will opt to plead guilty. On Monday, he said he and Cain “are still contemplating our options. Right now, we're going to trial. But we're going to look at all of our options."
No trial date for Cain has been set.
Bandy's plea came within weeks after a magistrate judge rejected a key motion in which Bandy and Cain sought to suppress evidence seized in a search of the couple’s home at the prison in Cottonport. The raid, led by agents from the state's Office of Inspector General, occurred in June 2016, a month after both Cain and Bandy resigned their posts at the prison.
Both Cain and Bandy also face state charges filed by the Avoyelles Parish District Attorney's Office related to their tenure at the Cottonport lockup.
Bandy is accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars in cash from a fund meant to benefit inmates' clubs. She is charged with malfeasance in office, injuring public records and theft of $25,000 or more.
Cain faces a state charge of obstruction of justice for what prosecutors say was his role in foiling an investigation into a rape at the prison.
Both of those cases are scheduled to be tried before juries on Sept. 17, according to the District Attorney's Office.