Plea deal forces official out of office in July; he qualifies for re-election in August

The former Tangipahoa Parish School Board member forced to resign after pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft and tax evasion is seeking re-election to the seat he vacated last month.

However, Eric Dangerfield’s probation could be revoked before election night for failure to pay restitution or forfeit property as required under his plea agreement, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

The only person to qualify to run against Dangerfield in the School Board’s District G seat is Tara Hudgins, a Republican from Hammond.

Dangerfield resigned from the Hammond-based District G seat on July 15, three weeks ahead of the Aug. 9 deadline imposed under his plea deal but a week after the state first threatened revocation of his probation.

Dangerfield, 61, pleaded guilty May 9 in 19th Judicial District Court to six misdemeanor counts of theft and two misdemeanor counts of tax evasion, and his wife, Cassandra N. Dangerfield, 55, pleaded guilty to one felony count of racketeering and two felony counts of state tax evasion.

The Dangerfields’ business, 1st Thessalonians Community Programs in Hammond, filed numerous false claims to the state Medicaid program for personal care services, the state Attorney General’s Office said at the time. The couple then used the proceeds to pay their salaries, buy property and luxury vehicles, pay college tuition for their adult sons and fund Eric Dangerfield’s previous School Board campaign.

The couple also filed false tax returns to avoid paying taxes on income derived from the business, the Attorney General’s Office said.

Under the Dangerfields’ plea deal, signed April 17, the couple agreed to pay more than $3.5 million in restitution, fines and costs; forfeit four luxury vehicles, a Hammond residence and shopping center; and be barred for life from owning or seeking employment with any entity that receives Medicaid or Medicare funding.

Eric Dangerfield, who received a four-year suspended sentence, also agreed to resign from the School Board, but the agreement did not bar him from seeking re-election to that post, Attorney General spokeswoman Laura Gerdes Colligan said Friday.

However, the Attorney General’s Office has filed a motion to revoke both Dangerfields’ probation for failure to comply with the other terms of their agreement, Colligan said.

The couple had paid only $139 total toward the $3.5 million in restitution, fines and costs owed for Medicaid fraud between their May 9 pleas and a July 8 email from Assistant Attorney General Kathleen Petersen, threatening revocation.

The Dangerfields also had paid only $75 total toward the nearly $80,000 they owed to the Louisiana Department of Revenue in back taxes and penalties, according to Petersen’s email.

The couple’s Washington Street home, Coleman Avenue shopping center and four luxury cars — a 2009 Audi Q7 Quattro, 2009 Mercedes GL 550, 2006 Lexus SC 430 and 2004 GMC Yukon XL — had not yet been listed for sale, as required, Petersen said.

And Dangerfield, rather than resigning by that point, had “intentionally misrepresented through defense counsel to the court that (he) needed an additional 90 days to wrap up his business affairs” on the School Board, Petersen said in the email.

Petersen said if the Dangerfields did not substantially comply with the terms of their plea deal by noon, July 10, the Attorney General’s Office would file a motion to revoke their probations.

A week later, Petersen filed the threatened motion, noting that the Dangerfields also had sold a 2009 Mercedes sports utility vehicle in Texas for $43,250 before they signed the plea deal but after the state had notified them of its intent to seek forfeiture.

The revocation hearing is set for Oct. 24.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen.