Louisiana to Jail 65-year old Grandmother Gail Dignam on Monday for $4,500 First Offense

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Judge refuses humanitarian motion to extend reporting to federal prison in Florida.

Hancock County, MS: (Criminal No. 10-CR-20-JJB) On Monday, 65-year old grandmother Gail Dignam is to report to a federal prison in Marianna, Fl, four hours from her home, to begin a 70 month sentence for two counts of mail fraud totaling $4,500.

It is her first offense. Mrs. Dignam, former director of the Governor's Program on Abstinence, was sentenced to the prison term on March 5th by U.S. District Court Judge James J. Brady although he imposed no fine and required her only to repay the $4,500 she was found guilty of misdirecting by a jury last October (FBI release 1 March 2012 - Former Director of the Louisiana Governor’s Program on Abstinence Sentenced to Serve 70 Months in Prison).

Mrs. Dignam was found guilty of secretly funneling government program monies to her son through a third party per the original 17 February 2010 indictment (indictment attached). Mrs. Dignam had been responsible for some $7 million of disbursements throughout her four-year tenure as the director of the GPA and is preparing an appeal of the verdict.

Judge Brady, who last year sentenced a 46 year-old woman, Bradis D. Hicks, to two years’ probation for her part in defrauding Medicare of $450,634 (Associated Press 8 April 2011 - Nola.com - Baker woman sentenced for Medicare fraud), refused a motion to have Mrs. Dignam's reporting to prison delayed on humanitarian grounds. Mrs. Dignam is caring for her 87-year old mother, is the caregiver for a young child and is to be scheduled for an operation to remove her gall bladder within the next two months. In fact, Mrs. Dignam was advised by her doctor not to tell her frail elderly mother of the ordeal as it might be “too much for her.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan A. Stevens, also against the motion, argued that the 65 year-old Mrs. Dignam presented a “flight risk.” Stevens was also the prosecutor on the Hicks case mentioned above.

The handling of Mrs. Dignam's case stands in stark contrast to that of former Louisiana Congressman Bill Jefferson (Times-Picayune 26 March 2012 – Nola.com - Former Rep. William Jefferson's conviction upheld by appeals panel) who was sentenced back on November 13, 2009 to 13 years for bribery after an investigation for corruption. Jefferson's sentence is the longest ever handed down to a congressman for any crime. Among other things, federal agents investigating Jefferson's home in 2005 had turned up $90,000 in cash in his freezer. Jefferson was not required to report to prison by trial Judge T.S Ellis III until his appeal was concluded. That decision came down this past Monday. All but one of eleven charges was upheld by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Prosecutors still have not requested Jefferson to report to prison.

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