A special investigation by Louisiana State Police into allegations former St Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain sexually abused at least four teenagers is nearing an end, according to a State Police spokesman.
“The state police did do an investigation into the allegations that is nearing its final stages and the case will soon be handed over to the St Tammany Parish District Attorney's Office for review,” said Louisiana State Police Lieutenant JB Slaton.
St Tammany Parish District Attorney Warren Montgomery would then decide whether to prosecute.
Montgomery didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The current St Tammany Sheriff Randy Smith has said the sex abuse allegations came to light as federal investigators were working on a corruption case involving a privately-run inmate work release program under Strain.
Multiple sources have said the investigators have been looking into allegations Strain sexually abused at least four teens, boys and girls. It is unknown whether the alleged abuse happened when they were under 17, the age of consent in Louisiana.
Other than a potential conflict of interest for STPSO, it is unclear why the State Police has handled the sex abuse investigation. Legal experts say sex crimes charges, if any are filed, would typically be state, not federal in nature.
Strain has not been charged with any crime and his attorney, Billy Gibbens, did not return a call seeking comment.
Charging documents against two of Strain’s top deputies and closest friends, David Hanson Sr., and Clifford "Skip" Keen, implicate the former sheriff in a conspiracy to funnel him money from a privately-run inmate work release program.
Hanson and Keen both face charges of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and soliciting bribes.
The adult children of Hanson and Keen formed a company called St Tammany Workforce Solutions LLC a few months before Strain awarded the company a no-bid contract to run his inmate work release program in Slidell.
A series of investigative reports by WWLTV and partner newspaper the New Orleans Advocate first raised questions about the arrangement in 2013.
In the work release program, inmates at the end of their sentences worked jobs in the community during the day and stayed at the prison-like barracks overnight.
St Tammany Workforce Solutions received state tax dollars in the form of a per diem to house the inmates and took nearly 70 percent of the inmates' pay for room and board. Court documents indicate the company made more than $1.2 million in the three years it was in operation.
Federal prosecutors allege the company kicked some of its profits back to Strain and his family members through Hanson and Keen and their children.
The two men were charged via bill of information, a strong indication they plan to plead guilty and that they are cooperating with federal investigators in the corruption case.