Ex-Opelousas housing worker sentenced for fraud

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — A former employee of the Opelousas Housing Authority has been sentenced to two years of probation in a federal investigation of bid-rigging that also snagged the agency's former director and an area contractor.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1zCbaNa ) Garnette L. Thomas, 76, the agency's former grant and capital funds coordinator, pleaded guilty last year to fraud charges.
She faced up to 16 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, but U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote said Friday she opted for probation because of her age, cooperation with investigators and lack of a criminal record.
Foote also fined Thomas $5,000, ordering that it be paid within 10 days.
Before sentencing, Thomas made only a brief statement: "Your honor, I'm very sorry."
Former Opelousas Housing Authority Director Walter O. Guillory was sentenced in June to 28 months in prison, and Duson businessman Kendall T. Anderson is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in April to misprision of a felony for not reporting the scheme to steer contracts to his construction company, Anderson Iron Works.
Federal prosecutors said that from 2007 to 2009, the Housing Authority ignored policies that required competitive bidding on construction projects and awarded much of the work to Anderson's company.
The criminal charges stemmed from the cover-up.
Guillory, concerned about a possible audit, told Thomas in June 2009 to review all the old files for construction contracts out of concern about a lack of documentation showing bid guidelines were followed, according to an outline of the case filed by federal prosecutor Kelly Uebinger.

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