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LSUE ACADEMIC ASSISTANCE DIRECTOR, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR PLEAD GUILTY TO STEALING FEDERAL FUNDS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 8, 2013

LAFAYETTE, La. United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that Dr. Marvette J. Thomas, 60, of Grambling, La., and Carra Sergeant, 60, of Ragley, La., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote to theft of government funds.

According to evidence presented at the guilty plea, Thomas served as director of the office of academic assistance, and Sergeant served as assistant director of academic assistance at Louisiana State University at Eunice (LSUE). From Sept. 1, 2008 until Feb. 28, 2012, Thomas and Sergeant used their positions to take funds from federal grants meant for the Upward Bound and Student Support Services projects, which are designed to assist students at LSUE in their education efforts and goals. They used grant funds for their personal benefit and attempted to cover up their activities by altering receipts and submitting false records.

They admitted to buying clothes, shoes, handbags, cosmetics, jewelry, children’s clothing, personal electronic devices, cookware, tools, toys, recreational vehicle parts, pet supplies, household items, outdoor items, exercise equipment, religious books, and gifts for family, friends and co-workers. LSU auditors, U.S. Department of Education/Office of Inspector General and the FBI estimate that Thomas spent at least $68,464 and Sergeant $74,653. Additionally, they allowed and encouraged subordinate co-workers to make personal purchases as well.  The co-workers’ purchases total $16,050. A total of $159,167 was illegally spent under Thomas’ and Sergeant’s watch.

“The defendants in this case were entrusted with managing funds that were supposed to benefit students seeking to expand their education,” Finley stated. “They now potentially face years in jail, fines and other penalties for their actions. We will continue to pursue cases where taxpayer money is used for personal benefit.”

“These federal programs exist so that individuals can pursue and make their dream of a higher education a reality,” said Neil E. Sanchez, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Education/Office of Inspector General, South Central Region.  “That’s why OIG special agents will continue to aggressively pursue those who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of our nation’s students.”

Thomas and Sergeant face up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, restitution, and three years of supervised release for theft of government funds.  A sentencing date of December 12, 2013 was set.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Education/Office of Inspector General and Louisiana State University auditors conducted the investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Myers P. Namie is prosecuting the case.

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