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Fraud may have left LHBPA without $800,000 in funds

At least three individuals pled guilty to allegations that they were involved in a scheme that saw more than $800,000 taken from the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (LHBPA). According to fraud charges, the three individuals were the former director and two of the top lieutenants of the organization. Authorities believe that the three used funds from the organization in illegitimate ways and they also contend that the former director rigged an election.

The LHBPA is a group that is tasked with the bookkeeping for the state's four race tracks. Purses are paid out through the LHBPA and in return, the organization receives six percent of the money involved. This money is used to pay for the benefits that employees of Louisiana's horse industry receive, including retirement, workers' compensation and health care.

According to a recent audit, the funds were supposedly lost between 2006 and 2010. While $828,620 was reportedly diverted from its proper target -- workers of the racehorse industry -- another $504,226 supposedly went unaccounted for because the required receipts were never turned in by top officials with the LHBPA.

During the former director's guilty plea, he admitted to pilfering funds from the organization. He reportedly spent this money on spa services, political contributions, designer handbags, Caribbean vacations and luxurious dinners. According to court documents, the man is serving a 46-month prison sentence for the charges brought against him and will be required to repay $105,104.

The two lieutenants that also pled guilty are serving a 13-month prison sentence and a six-month sentence of house arrest. The official with the prison sentence was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, while the official under house arrest was accused of helping to rig the 2008 election that allowed the former director to maintain his previous title. Anyone that finds themselves in such a situation -- by association or otherwise -- should hire an attorney to help them fend off any unwarranted charges.

Source: WWLTV, "Audit: Fraud cost group $800K in public funds," Mike Perlstein, March 25, 2013

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