4 accused of theft from LSU

Acadia Parish prosecutors have filed theft and forgery charges against four former LSU Eunice employees accused of running up nearly $160,000 in fraudulent purchases made with school-issued credit cards.

Court records show that federal authorities also are investigating allegations that four women who worked in the school’s Office of Academic Assistance falsified receipts to cover up their purchases of clothing, jewelry, electronics equipment and other items unrelated to their jobs.

District Attorney Michael Harson’s office filed charges earlier this month against Marvette Thomas, Shawana Prudhomme, Judy Guillory and Carra Sergeant, but Harson said he is willing to defer to federal prosecutors if they file their own charges against the women.

“I don’t see the need to duplicate the effort,” Harson said.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The office where the women worked administers two federally funded programs with an annual budget of roughly $400,000, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit.

An internal audit by the school this year found that $159,167 in fraudulent purchases had been made since fiscal year 2008, the FBI agent said.

Sergeant and Thomas are accused of using school credit cards to buy gifts for Prudhomme, including an iPad for Christmas one year.

Prudhomme “knew Thomas and Sergeant were not paying for these gifts out of their own pocket,” the agent wrote in his application for a warrant to search the employees’ computers.

LSU officials found receipts and invoices for purchases made with school-issued cards that did not match the documents submitted by the employees, the agent said. An LSU auditor told the FBI that it appeared “great care and effort was taken to alter the receipts and invoices to conceal what was actually purchased.”

Thomas, Guillory and Sergeant retired in February, while Prudhomme resigned the same month, said LSU Eunice spokesman Van Reed.

Reed said the school has reimbursed the U.S. Department of Education and taken “corrective actions” to ensure other employees don’t misuse school credit cards.

“We believe this was an isolated incident,” he said.