Updated, 3 p.m., Oct. 26: Former Col. Shirley Whittington and former Lt. Col. Deborah Leonard turned themselves in Wednesday, according to West Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Erin Foster.
Two former high-ranking officials at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola who are accu…
Two women accused of stealing at least $160,000 from funds meant to benefit employees at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola — where the women held high-ranking positions until last month — are set to turn themselves in to jail Wednesday on theft counts, West Feliciana Parish Sheriff Austin Daniel confirmed Tuesday.
Arrest warrants have been issued for former Col. Shirley Whittington and former Lt. Col. Deborah Leonard, each on counts of felony theft over $25,000, and attorneys for both women agreed to bring them to the West Feliciana Parish Jail Wednesday, Daniel said.
Whittington, who was in charge of Angola's Emergency Medical Services, and Leonard, stationed at the prison's training academy, both stepped down abruptly last month after details of a report by the state legislative auditor surfaced showing that the officials were accused of shorting an employee recreation fund by thousands of dollars. A separate audit, conducted by corrections officials, found even more widespread misuse of agency money over a longer period of time. Neither of the audits has been published yet.
Leonard, who'd served the Department of Public Safety and Corrections for 27 years, said by phone Tuesday she did not want to comment. Whittington, a 21-year corrections veteran, did not return a call Tuesday afternoon.
Whittington, who had been treasurer of the nonprofit Angola Employee Recreation Committee, which collects annual dues from employees who live and work on prison grounds in a community known as B-Line, spent at least $70,000 on personal items over a nine-year period using money from the fund, according to a copy of the internal audit obtained by The Advocate. She also withdrew more than $17,000 in cash over the past four years using an ATM card linked to the fund, the internal audit alleges.
Leonard, the former president of the committee, and Whittington together managed to siphon $73,307 in cash from sales at the prison's famous Angola Rodeo, according to the audit. Concession stands at the rodeo, where inmates sell handicrafts and other items to the public, is another source of revenue for the "B-Line Rec Fund," as the committee is known among employees. The fund, which collects about $150,000 a year, also takes in greens fees from Angola's Prison View golf course.
The pending arrests of the two Angola prison officials are the latest developments in nearly a year of turmoil in the state corrections department. In December, Burl Cain suddenly announced he would step down after two decades as warden of Angola following an investigation by The Advocate that revealed his business ties to a family member of an Angola inmate, and to the close friend of another inmate at the same lockup.
Since then, his son, Nate Cain, stepped down from his post as warden of what is now called the Raymond Laborde Correctional Center in Cottonport. He and his wife, Tonia Cain, who resigned from her position as the lockup's business manager, are under criminal investigation for theft at that prison, formerly known as the Avoyelles Correctional Center.
Burl Cain, who was warden at the time of Whittington's and Leonard's alleged acts of theft, was supposed to sign off on any purchase of more than $1,000 from the "B-Line Rec Fund," according to the group's bylaws. But the former Angola warden, who was also an "ex-officio" member of the association, has maintained he did not regularly OK such purchases and that the two accused officials "did their own thing."
Daniel said the warrants stem from the legislative auditor's investigation of Whittington and Leonard, but his office was not immediately able to provide copies of the warrants on Tuesday afternoon.