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Ladners' attorney asks for debris cleanup lawsuit delay

HANCOCK COUNTY — The government and attorneys for Roger and Sharon Ladner have asked a federal judge to delay a civil forfeiture lawsuit over Hancock County debris cleanup contracts while a criminal investigation is ongoing.

The federal government wants to seize $1.3 million from accounts controlled by Roger Ladner and his wife. The government has said the money was illegally obtained when Roger Ladner was employed by the county as road manager and given authority to award ditch cleaning contracts after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Prosecutors contend the money was allegedly funneled back to the control of the Ladners by contractors who had been awarded ditch cleaning contracts.

In October, an FBI agent said in a sworn statement that the Ladners and others are targets in a criminal probe regarding the contracts. No arrests have been made.

The Sea Coast Echo reports the seizure of the money is part of a separate civil action in federal court.

In court documents filed this past week, prosecutors said the civil procedure could “directly interfere with the ability of the government to conduct a criminal investigation.”

The Ladners’ attorney William Barrett said all of the money belonged to the Ladners.

“All property is proceeds of lawful employment, entrepreneurial endeavors, and other legal means,” the couple claims in documents.

Barrett agreed with the government that continuation of the civil procedure would “burden the rights of Roger Ladner against self-incrimination in the related investigation or case.”

In November 2005, Ladner was given permission by the board of supervisors to award contracts for culvert replacement, incidental debris removal, and ditch grading, providing the contractors did not exceed preapproved prices for labor and equipment.

Ladner then awarded contracts to dozens of different trucking, construction, and debris clean-up companies. He awarded several projects to family members.

The total amount of those contracts eventually totaled about $7.3 million.

The money was paid by FEMA and other federal agencies for work done during the fall of 2005 and spring of 2006, records show.

In January 2007, money began being funneled back to the control of Roger or Sharon Ladner, according to the FBI. The FBI raised questions about four contracts, totaling $1.79 million.

Court documents show two of the companies were owned by Roger Ladner’s brothers, Billy Wayne Ladner and Donald Ladner. The other two companies were Herman Ladner Trucking and Spot-Kat construction.

According to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website, the registered agent for Spot-Kat construction is Greg W. Rutland of Hattiesburg. Rutland died earlier this year.

Many of the checks are made payable to Roger or Sharon Ladner. Others are made out to Sharon Construction and R&S Construction, according to the FBI.

According to the secretary of state, Sharon Construction was formed in May 2006, but it is now dissolved. The registered agent was Sharon Ladner.

R&S Construction was formed in 2003, with Sue Richardson of Gulfport listed as the registered agent. Officers are listed as Roger and Sharon Ladner.

Some of the checks were dated as late as December 2008.

Source: Associated Press

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