A Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office employee has been charged with taking bribes in exchange for fraudulent bonds to release inmates from the parish jail, the U.S. attorney’s office in New Orleans said Tuesday.
Prosecutors charged Sonja Dyson Evans, 58, of Ponchatoula, a supervisor in the criminal records division, and Shawanda Dove, 51, of Amite, with using a mobile phone to carry out unlawful activity. A statement from the U.S. attorney’s office said the scheme ran for a year, ending in January 2017, but did not say how many inmates were released as a result of it.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although maximum penalties in federal court are rare for first offenders.
Prosecutors charged the pair in a bill of information, usually a sign that the defendant has agreed to plead guilty, instead of seeking a grand jury indictment.
The FBI initially launched an investigation into the Sheriff’s Office in March 2017 after authorities intercepted phone calls to the jail over illegal bonds.
At the time, Sheriff Daniel Edwards said no one in a leadership position had been question by authorities, but the FBI questioned other employees while also copying files and computer hard drives as part of the investigation.
Before federal authorities intervened in the case, the Sheriff’s Office had arrested 10 people in connection with an illegal bail-bond operation that allowed several inmates to go free without posting their court-ordered bonds. Two other Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Office employees, Crystal Knight and Latecial Milton, were also arrested.