Prison sentences handed down in federal Katrina kickback case - - The News for South Mississippi

Prison sentences handed down in federal Katrina kickback case

Former Hancock County Road Manager Roger Ladner Former Hancock County Road Manager Roger Ladner

Former Hancock County road manager Roger Ladner, and three of his family members were sentenced in federal court Thursday after pleading guilty to crimes that involved Hurricane Katrina kickbacks and ditch-cleaning contracts.

A remorseful Roger Ladner apologized for his actions, asked for forgiveness and was then sentenced to the maximum five years in federal prison.

His wife, Sharon, was sentenced to two years for her role in trying to cover-up the crime.

Ladner's brother Billy Wayne Ladner received three years and three months in prison for his involvement and brother Donald Ray Ladner received six months in prison and six months of house arrest.

As Hancock County road manager, Roger Ladner awarded more than 50 ditch cleaning contracts worth some $7.4 million. He awarded some of that work to his brothers, who then diverted checks, worth nearly a million dollars, back to Ladner and his wife.

During his remarks before sentencing, Roger Ladner took responsibility for his actions. He apologized to his family, his community and to his church family and begged for their forgiveness.

He said he made the "bad decisions" during "the most stressful time of my life" right after Hurricane Katrina.

"I can only pray the good I did during the 13 years as road manager can somehow outweigh the bad that came from these poor choices," Ladner said.

In her remarks before sentencing, Sharon Ladner said, "I take full responsibility for my actions and I'm sorry."

She pleaded with the judge for leniency, saying she has a 23-year-old daughter and a minor son who is still at home. But the judge pointed to the seriousness of the offense, specifically as it relates to Mrs. Ladner, who he says falsified documents in order to intentionally mislead a federal investigation. A very serious crime said the judge.

Family and friends filled much of the courtroom during sentencing. Many wrote letters to the judge, pleading for lesser sentences.

During the sentencing hearings, Judge Ozerden referred several times to the serious nature of the crimes. He said it involved a betrayal of public trust, a diversion of public money that was meant for good to help with disaster relief, and was instead diverted for personal gain.

In addition to his five years in prison, Roger Ladner was fined $25,000. He's also been ordered to pay $1.1 million in restitution to FEMA, which was the "victim" in this case.

Ladner has already forfeited around a million dollars in checks and although that will likely be credited toward the restitution, the judge made it clear, there's no guarantee. The government is working through that process, which could take up to a year.

The defendants will report to federal prison within the next 60 days.

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