Two high-ranking former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's deputies were charged in federal court on Nov. 28, the first fruits of a larger probe into a controversial Slidell work-release program that was privatized by former Sheriff Jack Strain.

Former Maj. Clifford "Skip" Keen and Capt. David Hanson Sr., whose children owned 90 percent of the work-release business, were charged in a federal bill of information with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and soliciting a bribe.

While Strain has not been charged, the bill of information strongly suggests he will be.

The document accuses him of participating in a kickback scheme with Keen and Hanson, accepting regular cash payments of more than $1,000 apiece from the two as a way of allowing him to participate in the profits generated by the work-release program.

The court documents refer to Strain not by name but as "Public Official A," in keeping with Justice Department regulations that frown on accusing named people of crimes when they have yet to be charged.

The document does not say how much Strain allegedly recouped from the arrangement.

The fact that Keen and Hanson were charged in a bill of information rather than grand jury indictments strongly indicates they have signed plea agreements and will cooperate with the investigation. They are scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. in front of U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle in New Orleans.

Strain's lawyer, Billy Gibbens, declined comment. Keen's attorney, Keith Couture, was in a murder trial Wednesday and unavailable for comment. Hanson couldn't be reached. 

Strain wanted to privatize the Slidell work release program and make Keen and Hanson the owners, the document says. But the two would have been required to resign their posts and “consequently … lose their salaries and pension increases from continued employment."

So the group came up with the plan to install their children, Brandy Hanson, Hanson's daughter who had left the Sheriff's Office, and Jarret Keen, Keen's son, as owners. They formed a company called St. Tammany Workforce Solutions LLC, which along with Brandy Hanson and Jarret Keen included Allen Tingle, owner of a construction company.

The firm was formed just days before Strain gave it a three-year contract. He did not undertake any sort of solicitation process.