TAMPA, Fla. – CastleGarde, a provider of IT security and compliance services to credit unions, has new owners after the company's president was arrested on charges that he allegedly had sex with a 14-year-old girl three years ago. Ed Francis was freed on $15,000 bond after his arrest in May, according to published reports, and he says he is anxious to let the industry know that the company he founded is still thriving. "CastleGarde is alive and well, signing up new clients and adding talented new staffers, from what I understand," Francis told Credit Union Times. "And there should be a clear separation here. The things that have been said about me are simply allegations, and CastleGarde is not involved in any way. I am, however, no longer associated with the company." CastleGarde provides physical and network security analysis and regulatory compliance consulting. Its clients include more than 25 of the 100 largest credit unions, according to the company's Web site at www.castlegarde.com. The 130-client company's new president is Jon Bebeau, a former Dun & Bradstreet vice president with 30 years of IT experience in local and federal government and the private sector. Meanwhile, three of CastleGarde's former senior managers have left the firm and formed their own company. They say they have heard from several current CastleGarde clients and expect to land more. They are Rick Woods, who was senior vice president of sales; Dan Juneau, who headed up compliance, and David Miller, who was CastleGarde's senior IT services manager. Along with another certified IT security specialist, David Hendrickson, they have formed Security Compliance Associates LLC, Woods says. Woods declined to say whether Francis' arrest led to their departure but did say he and other senior managers tried to buy Francis' majority ownership in CastleGarde. Francis says he decided to sell to the group headed by Bebeau "not because I didn't think (Woods and his group) wouldn't be able to handle it, but because I thought the other situation was the best thing for our clients." He called Bebeau "a very savvy, experienced professional who's an engineer himself and has run high-end technology companies before, and he's building a team that I think provides the best opportunity for CastleGarde and its clients on a day-to-day basis now and in the future." Bebeau says four new staffers have joined the firm, bringing the total to 12 and "enhancing our experience base. The company has grown substantially. We expect to continue our focus on credit unions while adding some vertical markets in related areas." Woods, meanwhile, says, "Clients already have begun signing on with us based on their experience with us four. These guys have done assignments as individuals and teams with probably three dozen credit unions of close to a billion dollars and up." Three new clients already have been landed by Security Compliance Associates, Woods says. Another seven or eight credit unions now with CastleGarde have contacted the new firm and say they plan to go with Woods and his colleagues when their contracts expire with CastleGarde, he adds. "We've just gotten started, so we're pretty excited how things are going," Woods says. "We're getting the message out, and I believe at the end of the day, for the right reasons, the bulk of our clients will continue trusting us with their IT security program." Meanwhile, Francis says the move was difficult for him. "I've lived and breathed CastleGarde," he says. "I feel like I'm stepping away from my child for the first time in nine years, and this has weighed on me heavily, but I unfortunately have personal issues now that I have to take care of." That includes spending time with his ailing father in New Jersey and with "my new fianc who loves me to death," Francis says. "I'll be taking care of what I consider the most important thing in the world, my family, while Jon Bebeau and his staff take care of the second most important thing in my life, my clients." He also says he'll be trying to make contact with "my friends out there in credit union land. That's part of my transition plan, too. From CEOs on down, these clients have all been my friends and I want them to understand what's going on, and to know what kind of professionals are now running the company." -

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