Plea talks still in the works for former TPSO captain

A former Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office captain entered a not guilty plea to a charge of stealing from the U.S. government in federal court Wednesday.

But attorneys say talks are still in progress with prosecutors, suggesting that Dawn Foret’s plea could change by the time the case comes back to court in September.

Foret appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan and entered the not guilty plea; as a magistrate that is the only plea Shushan may take.

“We are talking to the authorities in this matter and expect it will be resolved,” said Foret’s attorney, J. Rodney Baum of Baton Rouge.

According to court records Foret has a Sept. 1 pre-trial conference date scheduled, and a trial date in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance set for Sept. 12.

Upon conviction, theft of government funds carries a maximum term of 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, up to three years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment, and a $100 special assessment. According to a Bill of Information filed by U.S, Attorney Kevin Police, from November 2010 through July 2012, Foret “willfully and knowingly” stole at least $1,000 of federal funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The money was filtered to the TPSO through a grant program for enforcement of laws against underage drinking. Prior interviews of local officials revealed that the investigation was based on allegations that Foret billed the federal program for time that was spent working on non-related, off-duty paid details, during which she had been doing paperwork for the federal program, and that an unnamed supervisor had approved the practice.

The period under investigation falls under the administration of former sheriff Vernon Bourgeois.

No allegations have surfaced, however, that Bourgeois was complicit or had knowledge of these allegations, nor those against former narcotics chief Darryl Stewart, who pleaded guilty to a similar charge and will be sentenced in September. There are no current indications of what arrangements Stewart’s attorney and prosecutors might have made.

If Foret enters a guilty plea – which law enforcement sources familiar with the case agree is the most likely scenario – it is likely she will avoid federal prison time, but would still be subject to other sanctions including restitution, fines and probation.

Dawn Foret