Prison business office employees testify they knew it was wrong to let Cain use p-card

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Day two of the trial for former Avoyelles Correctional Center warden Nate Cain wrapped up on Tuesday with the testimonies of three witnesses who worked in the prison's business office.

Nate Cain (Source: APSO)

Laura Deselle, the first to testify, works as the administrative program manager for the facility's business office. Her job is to oversee the budget and make sure requests for purchases with a state credit card, called a p-card, fit in that budget.

The government began questioning by asking about the difference in the use of p-cards under the administration of former warden Lynn Cooper compared to then-warden Nate Cain.

“When Warden Cooper was there, he was very frugal,” Deselle said of the former warden. “When there was a change, there was a lot of RFPs. They’d go to Wal-Mart and they’d just buy things.”

Many times under Cain’s leadership, request for purchase, or RFP forms, were not filled out or approved until after purchases were made, violating proper protocol. Deselle says she often did not find out about purchases until after they were purchased, and even confronted Tonia Cain, who also worked in the office and was married to Nate, about it.

Cain also requested from Deselle that the man working for him at his home have an increase in salary. When she told Cain that she would have to go through Prison Enterprises for approval, she said he told her, “If you’re not going to do it, you can catch the gate,” implying her being fired.

The issue of Tonia being promoted as administrative director soon after she and Nate started dating was then brought up. It was at that time Tonia was given a p-card of her own. Deselle said Tonia knew nothing about the job and no one else was interviewed for it. But, when Deselle spoke to Nate about the situation, he told her not to talk about it.

Tonia's friend, Jodie Bordelon, was also promoted and given her own p-card. Deselle said that the two would often go on shopping trips together at places like Wal-Mart.

Deselle also noted that she was not aware of the Cains’ intentions to build their own “ranch house,” until more RFPs came in. The couple did not receive any bids for the house to get the best prices either.

The defense then cross-examined, asking if Deselle did everything in her power to report her suspicions that the Cains and Bordelon were misusing funds, including calling an 800 number available to make these kinds of reports. She said she expressed her concerns to many people, including Tonia, but never called the number.

The defense then asked if Nate was present when Tonia and her best friend Jodie Bordelon used p-cards to make purchases. She said that Nate was rarely present.

Deselle expressed concern over losing her job.

“I knew how quickly I could be fired,” she said.

Also fearful of losing their jobs were the next two witnesses called to the stand, Andrea Bordelon and Debra Gauthier.

The women had similar testimonies. They claimed they were approached by Nate and Tonia and asked to use their p-cards for things like furniture and shoes. Jodie Bordelon would often fill out the RFP forms for those purchases and determine who would approve them, often violating the proper approval process.

The government questioned Andrea first. She was asked if she knew it was against the rules to let other people use her p-card. She said she knew, but was scared to tell her supervisor, Nate Cain, out of fear of losing her job.

Last on the stand was Debra Gauthier, who also agreed she knew it was wrong to let others use her p-card.

“Did you think you were in a position to tell Mr. Cain ‘no’ when he asked for use of your p-card?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney David Ayo. Debra responded, “no.”

Both women wrapped up their statements by telling of the time they both saw Nate and Tonia in the office having a conversation, then heard Nate tell Tonia to take the two women outside. Once outside, Tonia told both of the women that if they were asked if they were present when the purchases on their p-cards were made, they should say they were.

For more information on the trail so far, see the "Related Links" section of the page.