NEW ORLEANS -- Former St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Peter Galvan pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to the federal corruption charge of conspiring to steal funds from his office and to profit personally from a jail contract.
Galvan originally pleaded not guilty Oct. 16, when he was called up to the Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan Judge's bench for arraignment on the federal corruption charge.
"Today's guilty plea ensures that Peter Galvan will be punished for abusing the public trust for his personal gain," said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite.
Galvan faces a maximum of five years in jail, a $250,000 fine and restitution of twice his gain or the victims' loss, whichever is greater.
On Oct. 11, Galvan was charged formally in a bill of information with conspiracy to commit theft of property and money from a municipal institution receiving federal funds. He was charged in a bill of information instead of an indictment because he had been cooperating with authorities.
Galvan, however, benefited little for the cooperation, as the plea deal appeared to only have the government promising not to bring any more charges in exchange for the guilty plea.
Sentencing for Galvan was set for Jan. 29 at 2 p.m.
The bill of information included detailed allegations that Galvan received improper payouts for sick and vacation time, used a coroner's office employee to fulfill a medical care contract between his private practice and the Slidell jail, and used thousands in public dollars to buy personal items.
According to the document, Galvan used taxpayer money for meals, boat accessories and other personal perks. Federal prosecutors contend he collected $111,376 in sick leave he wasn't entitled to, and they allege that St. Tammany Parish lost $50,000 when Galvan used a coroner's office employee, during coroner's hours, to work on his own side deal providing medical services at the Slidell jail.
The bill of information also contends Galvan used more than $9,000 of coroner's office funds to buy a generator for a personal boat. And the feds alleged that Galvan's meal and personal purchases with the coroner's office debit card totaled nearly $16,000 from 2007 to 2012.
Galvan has also been accused of setting excessive salaries for himself and possibly misusing vehicles and property. He faces up to five years in jail, a $250,000 fine, and will have to forfeit any ill-gotten property.
The coroner's office has seen several high-ranking officials step down in the wake of the scandal. Kim Kelly, the chief financial officer for the coroner, resigned in early June. A month earlier, in early May, Executive Director Melanie Comeaux left the office. Chief Death Investigator Mark Lombard, who is also believed to be a co-conspirator described in the federal case, quit last Friday.
Galvan resigned as the St. Tammany Parish Coroner Friday, Oct. 18, two days after his arraignment in Federal Court.