Former Avoyelles Correctional Center warden Nate Cain, who resigned in May amid investigations into spending and an alleged rape cover-up at his prison, is accused in court documents with his wife of spending thousands in state dollars on a raft of personal items, including gun parts, and of concealing the purchases to make them seem legitimate.
State investigators raided the warden's house at the Cottonport prison, which Nate and Tonia Cain had recently vacated, in early June as part of an investigation into possible malfeasance and theft, records show. The raid came after "a number of cooperating witnesses" told authorities that the Cains had routinely ordered other employees to buy them items ranging from children's furniture to televisions and magazines for military-style rifles, all of it with credit cards billed to Louisiana taxpayers, according to a warrant filed by the state Inspector General's office and signed by 12th Judicial District Judge Kerry Spruill on June 8.
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The FBI is also investigating the Cottonport lockup, according to a source with knowledge of the activity. An FBI representative said the agency has no comment.
The 10-page search warrant and list of items seized, obtained by The Advocate pursuant to a public records request, offers perhaps the clearest peek so far of what investigators have been scrutinizing over several months as the prison has endured a shakeup. Nate Cain, 49, the eldest son of the celebrated former Angola warden Burl Cain, resigned in June while facing charges of malfeasance related to his alleged tanking of a rape investigation. Two other prison employees were fired in that episode. Meanwhile, two other officials at the prison retired in May, including Tonia Cain, 41, who'd been business manager.
The underlying allegation that Nate Cain was alleged to have swept under the rug -- sex between an inmate and a prison employee, considered rape under federal guidelines -- is still being investigated.
One of the seized items alleged to have been in possession of Nate and Tonia Cain was a Colt 1911 .45-caliber handgun with an "evidence tag" attached to it, according to the list, which has 52 entries, half of which pertain to weapons or gun parts. Investigators searched the Cains' house and a nearby building, but not the prison's armory, according to the warrant.
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Neither of the Cains had state credit cards in their own names, and Jill Craft, the attorney for Nate and Tonia Cain, noted by email Friday that none of the purchases were directly made by her clients. She also said that all of the items were for official purposes.
As for the various weapons parts, Craft said as employees of a facility housing convicted felons, the Cains had the right to be armed. She said it would be "logical" for a gun with an evidence tag to be stored in a safe.
Craft said earlier that Nate Cain resigned due to health problems and his wife retired out of concern for him.
Asked about the allegations against the Cains, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections issued a prepared statement saying: "The Department has a zero tolerance policy regarding any abuse or improper use of LaCarte purchasing cards, and we will continue to cooperate with the IG’s office and provide any additional information needed in order to complete their investigation."
The warrant alleges that Nate and Tonia Cain had a "commonplace" habit of asking other Avoyelles employees to buy items for them with the state-issued credit cards from early 2013 to early 2016. After searching the Cains' house on prison grounds, along with an adjacent metal building and a dog pen, investigators found some 20 magazines for firearms along with gun sights and receivers — the part of a firearm that encloses the operating mechanism, according to the warrant.
Investigators also found a Nikon D3200 camera, a Garmin Montana GPS navigator, sleeping bags, Bose headphones, an airsoft gun "in a Christmas bag," a dog bed, an iPad folio, t-shirts, Vizio televisions, iHome radios, a Leatherman utility knife and two Lonestar Pro metal detectors, among other items, the document says. Some of the items bore serial numbers matching the codes investigators expected to find, according to the warrant application.
The warrant also lists dozens of items that authorities thought they might find in the home -- presumably based on credit-card receipts -- but did not.
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Another structure on prison grounds tied to the Cains has also been at the center of controversy. Corrections officials acknowledged in May a building nicknamed the "Ranch House" had been constructed — using some $76,000 in unauthorized state funds — after Nate Cain skirted building rules. After finding out about the dwelling, rumored to be a potential residence for Nate Cain, the corrections department shut the project down. That residence was not subjected to the search.
Craft said that building is clearly visible from the prison's gate, suggesting that it's not plausible that corrections officials did not know about its construction.
In June, the state Legislative Auditor released an audit that examined some Avoyelles prison credit card expenditures. It highlighting numerous red flags in spending and poor oversight of the state credit card system.
Among the questionable purchases noted in the audit were $4,000 in "oil-rubbed bathroom fixtures." And a separate review by The Advocate turned up additional questionable acquisitions, including some $10,000 spent at a furniture store owned by the husband of Jodie Bordelon, a procurement specialist at the prison who reported to Tonia Cain. Many of the questionable purchases were made with Bordelon's card.
The Advocate in April requested receipts to back up some $86,000 in purchases at the Cottonport lockup, but the corrections agency has refused to provide them. A representative for Gov. John Bel Edwards, who reappointed corrections secretary Jimmy LeBlanc this year, has said the records are not public because of an ongoing investigation that could lead to "criminal litigation."
The state corrections department shuffled nine people into new top positions last month, with W.S. “Sandy” McCain now serving as the Avoyelles warden.
In December, Burl Cain, who'd served as Angola warden for two decades, announced he was stepping down after The Advocate published stories about his business deals tied to family and friends of inmates.