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February 07 11:43 AM

Former School Board Member Pleads Guilty To Cocaine Trafficking

He pleads guilty in federal court.

A former DeSoto Parish School Board member has pleaded guilty to trafficking cocaine.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said Bartholomew Claiborne, 25, of Mansfield, pleaded guilty on Thursday before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote to distributing cocaine.

Claibonre was indicted on Sept. 4, 2012 for distributing cocaine. According tot he indictment, Claiborne was reported to have distributed cocaine on 14 separate occasions between Oct. 11, 2011 and July 12, 2012. Authorities used surveillance methods to observe Claiborne selling cocaine.

Claiborne faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $ million or both with three years of supervised release on the count. Sentencing has been set for May 21 at 11:30 a.m.

"As an elected official, Bartholeomew Claiborne swore to uphold the law, and by his own admission, failed to do so," Finley said. "He also failed the children and parents of his school board district where he served as a role model. We hope this case sends a message that public officials are not above the law. We will continue to prosecute those who violate federal laws. I thank all of the agencies on a federal, state and local level who participated in this investigation."

Claiborne was the first indictment as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) "Operation Limpiar Casa." The FBI, the DEA, the DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office, the Mansfield Police Department  and the Tri-Parish Task Force which includes DeSoto, Sabine, and Red River Parishes, participate in the OCDETF program and conducted the operation.

Finley said the  OCDETF program is a joint federal, state and local cooperative approach to combat drug trafficking and is the nation's primary tool for disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, targeting national and regional level drug trafficking organizations, and coordinating the necessary law enforcement entities and resources to disrupt or dismantle the targeted criminal organization and seize their assets.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Van Hook prosecuted the case.

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