AROUND THE STATE: Louisiana elementary school stops daily student prayer after parent complaint

Staff Report

Louisiana elementary school stops prayer after complaint

A national group advocating for the separation of church and state has set its sights on Ouachita Parish Schools following a parent complaint about their child being forced to recite a daily prayer.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a news release it sent a letter to the school board's attorney asking that Riverbend Elementary School in West Monroe cease its prayer immediately.

According to the foundation, the school has required its students to recite a prayer each day following the Pledge of Allegiance. A different child is reportedly selected every morning to deliver the Pledge and then the prayer over the intercom.

New York man pleads guilty in fraud scheme targeting elderly

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Gathe, Jr. announced that 50-year-old Mohammad Alam of New York pled guilty to a bill of information charging him with misprision of a felony before U.S. District Court Judge John W. deGravelles. 

According to admissions made as part of his guilty plea, in December of 2016, Alam became involved in a computer technical support fraud scheme that targeted elderly victims throughout the United States including the Middle District of Louisiana.

The scheme involved international participants, targeted over 30 victims, and took in some $340,000 in fraudulent proceeds.

Baton Rouge man charged 

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Gathe, Jr. announced that a federal grand jury returned a fifteen-count indictment charging 52-year-old Monty Matthews of Baton Rouge with wire fraud, extortion in interstate communications, attempted escape, and assault on an officer. 

According to the indictment, between the summer of 2017 and March 2022, Matthews allegedly devised a fraud scheme targeting elderly victims through false representations about the existence of companies and investment opportunities, resulting in a loss of more than $1 million.

Matthews would allegedly send false and, at times, threatening messages via cellular phone to the victims to induce them to make and continue to make investments in the form of cash that could only be delivered to him.

Denham Springs woman charged for false tax returns

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Gathe, Jr. announced that a federal grand jury has returned a three-count indictment charging 40-year-old Lakeisha Grayer of Denham Springs with making and subscribing false tax returns. 

The indictment alleges that, on multiple occasions from 2016 to 2018, Grayer made and filed false tax returns for her business by knowingly underreporting the business’s gross receipts for tax years 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Baton Rouge man pleads guilty to receipt of child pornography

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Gathe, Jr. announced that 45-year-old Jason L. Istre of Baton Rouge pled guilty before U.S. Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick to receipt of child pornography. 

As a result of his conviction, Istre faces a significant term of imprisonment, a fine, and a period of supervised release, which includes sex offender registration requirements.

According to admissions made during his plea, on or about Oct. 1, 2021, Istre knowingly received files of child pornography via the internet.