Prosecutor: Records could show plot to steal funds for homeless EBR students

Despite a defense attorney’s complaint of “dragnet” tactics, a federal judge has ordered a Baton Rouge man to turn over records that prosecutors say could show whether he and a woman plotted to steal money earmarked for homeless or displaced children in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

Calvin E. Beal’s attorney, Joseph Long, asked Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson not to compel Beal’s compliance with a civil investigative demand that federal prosecutors served on Long in November.

Nevertheless, Jackson granted the federal government’s motion Monday to compel Beal’s compliance with the demand for documents, including tax and financial records and contracts.

“It’s not grounds for an appeal. It’s his (the judge’s) discretion,” Long said Tuesday. “We (will) give them the information they want.”

U.S. Attorney Walt Green said he could not comment on the ongoing litigation.

Long contended in a Feb. 12 filing that prosecutors targeted Beal because of his business relationship with Carolyn Coleman, who served for more than 15 years as coordinator of the school system’s homeless program. Long claimed Coleman is the “real focus” of the government’s investigation.

“If the government suspects a criminal act, let it say so and let us get on with it,” Long demanded in the filing.

He also argued Beal “is a target of a criminal investigation masquerading as a civil case” and that the government’s is running “roughshod over Mr. Beal without judicial oversight.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Nelson countered in a Feb. 27 court filing that the government’s ongoing civil probe has shown Beal and Coleman entered into an arrangement in 2006 under which Beal — through his company, M.C.&B. Enterprises LLC — purportedly provided school uniforms and supplies.

Coleman paid Beal for the services through the school system and her company, the Louisiana Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, the prosecutor added.

The 2013 annual report for the nonprofit group listed Coleman as its president.

Coleman could not be reached at a phone number she has used in the past.

An internal audit by the school system in late 2009 revealed more than $150,000 was paid for school uniforms from a company that listed its office at what proved to be an abandoned building in the 3500 block of Evangeline Street — the same building listed as M.C. & B.’s office address.

Auditors could not account at that time for hundreds of uniforms reported to have been bought for homeless students.

They also reported some uniforms found in boxes were dirty and worn or in styles and colors not permitted by the school system.

Coleman, who campaigned unsuccessfully in 2004 for the District 10 seat on the Metro Council, stopped serving as coordinator of the school system’s homeless program shortly after the audit.

M.C. & B. lost its state charter in May 2010.

“While it is true that a criminal investigation looking into similar activities on the part of Mr. Beal and Ms. Coleman was opened in 2010, that investigation was closed last year without any criminal charges being filed,” Nelson noted in his court filing.

“A new criminal investigation, if it is indeed undertaken by the Criminal Division, will focus on criminal activity and statutes different from that which the 2010 criminal investigation covered,” he said.

Nelson acknowledged in the filing that no one, including Beal and Coleman, has been designated a “target” of any criminal investigation. He also said there is no open grand jury probe into Beal or Coleman.