2011 Press Releases
April - June
30 June MSBR Sentencing
28 June Lewis Guilty Plea
23 June Green Sentencing
15 June Loga Bill of Information
12 May Aguilard Sentencing
21 April Coury Sentencing
27 April Ayo Clarissa Sentencing
21 April Orillion Sentencing
21 April Jones Sentencing
18 April Waters Guilty Plea
14 April Dees Guilty Plea
12 April Belaire Residents Arrested
1 April Roman Plea
BATON ROUGE MAN SENTENCED TO LENGTHY PRISON TERM FOR HEALTH CARE FRAUD
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that SAMUEL B. JOHNSON, age 48, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was sentenced this morning by U.S. District Court Judge James J. Brady to serve sixty (60) months in federal prison for his role in a multi-year health care fraud scheme that he perpetrated in the Baton Rouge area.
JOHNSON was charged, along with three others, in a superseding indictment that was filed on December 8, 2010. The indictment alleged that JOHNSON was one of the owners of a company known as Medical Supplies of Baton Rouge, Inc. (“MSBR”), which was engaged in the business of providing power wheelchairs, orthotics and other durable medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries. In connection with his guilty plea, JOHNSON admitted that from in or about November of 2005 through at least in or about June of 2009, he conspired to use MSBR to defraud the Medicare Program and commit health care fraud. Specifically, JOHNSON and his co-conspirators routinely submitted claims to Medicare seeking reimbursement for a set of expensive braces (including a back brace, knee braces, and other items), knowing that the braces were not medically necessary and had not been prescribed for the beneficiaries by their physicians.
Through the submission of such false claims, JOHNSON and his co-conspirators attempted to obtain more than $5.4 million in Medicare funds. On January 24, 2011, JOHNSON pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of money laundering.
This morning, Judge Brady sentenced JOHNSON to serve a term of imprisonment of 60 months. JOHNSON was also ordered to pay $878,280 in restitution, and ordered to forfeit an additional $928,280 in proceeds from his crimes. Following his release from imprisonment, JOHNSON will be required to serve a 2-year term of supervised release.
“The sentence pronounced today by the Court sends a clear message to health care providers that trying to make easy money by cheating Medicare isn’t worth it. There’s nothing easy about serving five years in a federal penitentiary, as I’m sure this defendant will soon find out,” said Mike Fields, Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Regional Office for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General.
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. remarked, “The lengthy prison sentence handed out this morning is the latest example of our aggressive and effective efforts to combat Medicare fraud. We cannot tolerate criminals who attempt to bilk the Medicare program and undermine its solvency, particularly in today’s economic climate. Hopefully this morning’s sentence will discourage those who would seek to defraud Medicare.”
The investigation of this matter was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alan Stevens, Helina Dayries and Chris Dippel. The case was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 1,000 individuals who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $2.3 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
MAYOR OF PORT ALLEN, LOUISIANA CONVICTED OF RACKETEERING
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced today that DEREK A. LEWIS, age 50, of Port Allen, Louisiana, pled guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Brian A. Jackson to violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). LEWIS, the Mayor of the City of Port Allen, Louisiana, had been charged by a federal grand jury with a variety of offenses related to his taking of bribes while Mayor. His trial had been scheduled to begin on July 25, 2011.
RICO provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and forfeiture. Given LEWIS’s acceptance of responsibility and cooperation, the parties have agreed that a sentence of imprisonment not to exceed 5 years is appropriate. In addition to any term of imprisonment, LEWIS will be required to forfeit all of the proceeds from the offense and faces up to $250,000 in fines and a term of up to three years of supervised release following imprisonment.
LEWIS’s conviction is part of Operation Blighted Officials, an investigation utilizing undercover operations to determine the extent and scope of public corruption. As part of the operation, individuals working undercover for the FBI posed as businessmen (hereinafter referred to as “the Businessmen”) affiliated with a company involved in the development of a conceptual product known as the “Cifer 5000.” The Cifer 5000 was marketed as an automated waste container cleaning system using specially-designed and equipped trucks to clean and sanitize commercial and residential waste containers. Its potential customer pool was represented to be governmental entities, such as municipalities.
During his guilty plea, LEWIS admitted that, during the period from October 2008 through June 2010, he used his position as Mayor to take actions favorable to the Businessmen, including the promotion of the Cifer 5000 in the city and elsewhere, in exchange for cash and other things of value totaling over $15,000. LEWIS admitted that such official actions included (1) writing a false official letter of support which he believed would be used to secure millions of dollars in private investor capital; (2) writing a false official letter of support which he believed would be used to convince other public officials to contract with the Cifer 5000; (3) agreeing to propose a City ordinance favorable to the Cifer 5000 project; (4) writing an official letter of support which he believed would be provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in connection with a multi-million dollar grant request; (5) providing access to confidential law enforcement information through the Chief of Police; and (6) guaranteeing that the Cifer 5000 would receive a contract with the City.
The status of the other defendants in Operation Blighted Officials is as follows:
• Johnny Johnson: On July 23, 2010, the former City Councilman of Port Allen, Louisiana, was convicted after pleading guilty to using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. Johnson faces up to 5 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. He will be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson on a date to be determined.
• Maurice B. Brown: On March 3, 2011, the former Mayor of White Castle, Louisiana, was convicted by a federal jury following a seven-day trial of 11 counts of violating RICO, engaging in honest services mail and wire fraud, and using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. His brother was acquitted. Former Mayor Brown faces up to 145 years imprisonment and a $2,750,000 fine. He is scheduled to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson at 9:30 a.m. on August 10, 2011.
• Thomas A. Nelson, Jr.: On July 22, 2011, the former Mayor of New Roads, Louisiana, was convicted by a federal jury following an eleven-day trial of 7 counts of violating RICO, engaging in honest services wire fraud, using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering, and making false statements to the FBI. He faces up to 65 years imprisonment and a $1,750,000 fine. He will be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson on a date to be determined.
• Frederick W. Smith: The Chief of Police for Port Allen, Louisiana, has been charged by a federal grand jury with 11 counts of violating RICO, engaging in honest services wire and mail fraud, and using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. If convicted, Smith faces up to 130 years imprisonment and a $2,750,000 fine. His trial is set to begin on July 25, 2011 before U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson.
• George L. Grace, Sr.: The former Mayor of St. Gabriel, Louisiana has been charged by a federal grand jury with 11 counts of violating RICO, bribery involving a federally-funded entity, making false statements, obstruction of justice, honest services mail and wire fraud, and use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. If convicted, Grace faces up to 180 years imprisonment and a $2,750,000 fine. His trial is set to begin on January 23, 2012, before Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson.
U.S. Attorney Cazayoux stated, “I am pleased that the defendant has accepted responsibility for his actions. His guilty plea allows his community to move forward and past this dark period in its history. This case highlights the importance of discovering and prosecuting public corruption and demonstrates the continued commitment of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in prosecuting these crimes which undermine the public’s confidence in its government. We look forward to proceeding with other cases under Operation Blighted Officials.”
FBI Special Agent-in-Charge David Welker stated: “Today’s guilty plea marks a significant step in this ongoing investigation and should send a clear message to any public official contemplating using his office to line his pockets for self-enrichment. This guilty plea and other ongoing public corruption probes reflect the FBI’s commitment and dedication to deterring and preventing future schemes that involve elected officials.”
Operation Blighted Officials is an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, has also assisted. These matters are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Corey R. Amundson, who serves as the Senior Deputy Criminal Chief, and Assistant United States Attorney M. Patricia Jones, who serves as the Senior Litigation Counsel. In addition, Assistant United States Attorney Alan A. Stevens is a member of the LEWIS prosecution team and Assistant United States Attorney Michael Jefferson is a member of the NELSON prosecution team.
GONZALES WOMAN SENTENCED FOR FRAUD
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced that U.S. District Judge Frank J. Polozola sentenced Veronica Ann Lewis Green, 43, of Gonzales, Louisiana, to thirty months in prison, restitution of $1,128,308, and two years supervised release after imprisonment. Judge Polozola ordered GREEN to pay restitution to Medicare, Blue Cross, and the Social Security Administration.
GREEN pled guilty on February 23, 2011, to one count of health care fraud and one count of fraud on the Social Security Administration. From April 2006 through August 2009, GREEN submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare. The false claims led to Medicare and Blue Cross of Louisiana issuing payments to GREEN’s medical supply business. GREEN owned and operated AYS Medical Supplies, which was located in Gonzales, Louisiana. GREEN defrauded Medicare by submitting claims for durable medical equipment which was neither medically necessary nor actually provided to Medicare beneficiaries.
In the course of investigating the false claims to Medicare and Blue Cross, investigators also discovered that GREEN submitted false information to the Social Security Administration for the purpose of obtaining disability benefits for herself and her family.
Judge Polozola sentenced GREEN to repay $969,127 to Medicare and $654 to Blue Cross. GREEN was also ordered to repay $152,627 to the Social Security Administration.
The investigation of GREEN was conducted by the Medicare Strike Force, which is comprised of Special Agents of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and the Louisiana Department of Justice, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. The investigation was also assisted by AdvanceMed, the Medicare Program Integrity Contractor. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rene Salomon.
The joint DOJ-HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a multi-agency team of federal, state and local investigators designed to combat Medicare fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques and an increased focus on community policing.
U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. stated: “We will continue to work with our federal, state, and private sector partners to eliminate this type of fraud that diverts monies from those in need of health care. This sentence sends a message to those who commit healthcare fraud that they will be found and held accountable for their misconduct.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge David W. Welker, New Orleans Division, stated: “As we have noted in the past, Medicare fraud drives up the cost of health care which impacts us all, especially our most vulnerable citizens. The sentence handed down to Ms. Green demonstrates the significance of the crime and highlights the positive results of collaborative health care fraud enforcement in Louisiana.”
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell stated: “Teamwork between federal, state, and local agencies is essential in the fight against health care fraud – a crime that costs us all. I want to assure you that the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who falsely believe they can steal taxpayer dollars from our Medicaid and Medicare programs.”
Ms. Green's sentence today for both Medicare fraud and Social Security fraud caps a final chapter in this defendant's sorry history of stealing from federal programs." said Mike Fields, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Dallas Regional Office for HHS/OIG. "Defendants like Ms. Green unnecessarily place these programs at risk and the judge's decision today sends a message to others like her that this conduct will not be tolerated."
Darrell Langlois, Vice President of Blue Cross Blue Shield, stated: “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana continues to take health care fraud very seriously and applauds the government for its actions in this case. We all pay higher premiums as a result of fraud cases like this and that is why we work closely with the government in the fight against health care fraud.”
BATON ROUGE MAN CHARGED WITH BANK FRAUD AND MONEY LAUNDERING
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that a Bill of Information was filed on June 15, 2011, charging STEVE HAROLD LOGA, 42, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with bank fraud and money laundering. LOGA faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
The charge alleges that from June 2008 to October 2008, LOGA devised a scheme to defraud Fidelity Bank of $1,229,745.21 by using fraudulent invoices to obtain credit advances from the bank. According to the Bill of Information, LOGA owned and operated a business known as Warehouse Food Group. LOGA established a line of credit with the bank which was secured by accounts receivable of his seafood business. During a four month period in 2008, LOGA created more than 90 false invoices which purported that LOGA’s business was owed $1,556,650 and submitted them to the bank in order to obtain advances on the line of credit established for his business. The scheme was discovered by the bank when the false invoices were not paid.
IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Jim Lee, stated that IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to utilize our forensic accounting skills in a joint investigation to put a stop to bank fraud and other types of white collar fraud."
U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., stated, “We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute individuals who defraud our financial institutions. Diverting monies meant for legitimate lending activities will not be tolerated. This investigation is another great example of federal agencies cooperating to combat such illegal activity in our community.”
The investigation of LOGA was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rene I. Salomon.
NOTE: A bill of information is merely an accusation by the United States Attorney that an offense has been committed by the defendant. The defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at trial.
BATON ROUGE MAN SENTENCED FOR INVESTMENT FRAUD
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced today that U.S. District Court Chief Judge Ralph E. Tyson sentenced RAY A. AGUILLARD, age 60, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to two hundred and forty (240) months in prison, to pay restitution of $3,703,696.85, and to three (3) years of supervised release after imprisonment.
AGUILLARD pled guilty on July 22, 2010 to a bill of information charging him with mail fraud in relation to his operation of a ponzi scheme resulting in losses of approximately $3.8 million to over 40 victims. AGUILLARD, doing business as BRC Group in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, used his company to solicit and obtain approximately $5.6 million from approximately 40 victims based on false representations that such money would be used to operate various loan finance companies and their investments would earn 15% annual interest with the victims having 100% access to the interest at all times. AGUILLARD made further false representations about his personal financial status in order to provide a sense of security to the victims so as to convince the victims to leave their money with him and to solicit additional money from the victims. None of the money was ever invested or otherwise utilized to operate any business as represented by AGUILLARD to the victims and AGUILLARD had no ownership interest in any such loan finance companies.
U.S. Attorney Cazayoux stated: “This sentence sends a strong message that the United States Attorney’s Office is committed to the investigation and prosecution of those who seek to commit fraud. The effective prosecution of such crimes will further serve to protect the financial well being of the public and deter future criminal conduct of others seeking to exploit their fellow citizens.”
The investigation of AGUILLARD was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Richard L. Bourgeois, Jr., who also serves as Deputy Criminal Chief.
MAN SENTENCED FOR INVESTMENT FRAUD SCHEME
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced that U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson sentenced WILLIAM J. COURY, 67, of Plaquemine, Louisiana, to fifty-one (51) months in prison, to pay restitution of $1,375,121.87, and to two years supervised release after imprisonment.
COURY pled guilty on January 27, 2011, to mail fraud and engaging in an illegal monetary transaction. In pleading guilty, COURY, who was an insurance agent, admitted that, from at least 1996 through 2006, he engaged in a scheme to defraud clients. He would solicit funds from clients for investment in annuities and other insurance products. Rather than investing such funds as promised to the victim clients, defendant would convert the funds to his own use and benefit. In total, COURY stole more than $1,399,000 from unsuspecting clients. At the sentencing proceeding, Judge Jackson called COURY’s crimes reprehensible.
James C. Lee, Special Agent-in-Charge of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, stated: “We are pleased with today’s sentencing of Mr. Coury. Honest and law-abiding citizens are fed up with the likes of those who use deceit and fraud to line their pockets with other people’s money. Special Agents of IRS Criminal Investigation, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to work with the United States Attorney’s Office to ensure individuals who engage in this type of financial fraud are brought to justice.”
United States Attorney Cazayoux said, “The defendant took advantage of people who trusted him to invest and protect their life savings. My office will continue to aggressively pursue fraudsters like defendant who prey on honest citizens. Complex investment fraud schemes, like defendant’s, threaten the livelihood of victims and undermine our nation’s economy.”
The investigation of COURY was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney M. Patricia Jones who serves as Senior Litigation Counsel.
WOMAN SENTENCED FOR FILING FALSE TAX RETURNS
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that U.S. District Judge James Brady sentenced CLARISSA T. AYO, 35, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to ninety-four (94) months in prison, to pay restitution of $76,762.67, and to three years supervised release after imprisonment.
AYO pled guilty on June 29, 2010, to conspiracy to file false claims for tax refunds, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. AYO conspired with others, including Sheila Cage and Levonne Stewart, to obtain the names and social security numbers of various individuals and to prepare false and fraudulent federal income tax returns for filing with the IRS. Some of these names and social security numbers were of residents at area nursing homes. Other names and social security numbers were traded or purchased between co-conspirators. The conspiracy included falsely claiming that taxpayers had been self-employed and had earned income to maximize the refund amount obtained. In all, AYO’s participation in this scheme involved approximately 42 false tax returns claiming refunds totaling $136,076.67.
Levonne Stewart was sentenced in February of 2011, to forty-eight (48) months imprisonment. Sheila Cage is scheduled for sentencing on May 12, 2011.
James C. Lee, Special Agent-in-Charge of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, stated: “We are pleased with today’s sentencing of Ms. Ayo. The tax system is built on the premise that taxpayers file accurate and timely tax returns. Willfully aiding or assisting in the preparing of false tax returns is a serious crime, punishable under Federal law. To ensure confidence in our tax system, Special Agents of IRS Criminal Investigation are committed to the aggressive pursuit and prosecution of individuals who intentionally violate the nation's laws."
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. stated, “This is another example of four federal agencies working together to protect our most vulnerable citizens.”
The investigation of AYO was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, United States Secret Service, and Social Security Administration. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rich Bourgeois who serves as Deputy Criminal Chief.
MAN SENTENCED TO 17.5 YEARS
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced that U.S. Chief District Judge Ralph E. Tyson sentenced CHRIS R. ORILLION, JR., 33, of Denham Springs, Louisiana, to 17.5 years in prison. ORILLION was sentenced for two counts of attempted possession with the intent to distribute 5 grams or more of cocaine base, also known as “crack” cocaine.
During a court-authorized wiretap, law enforcement agents intercepted phone conversations between ORILLION and his supplier. During one of those phone conversations, ORILLION informed his supplier that he had collected sums of money he owed for amounts of “crack” cocaine which this supplier had provided to him earlier on a consignment basis. ORILLION added that he still had amounts of “crack” cocaine available for sale.
During another telephone conversation with this same supplier, ORILLION told him that he needed an ounce of “crack” cocaine so that he could make some money. His supplier informed him that he could stop by his residence and pick up this amount of “crack” cocaine. ORILLION did so.
Before sentencing ORILLION, Chief Judge Tyson noted his extensive criminal history and the fact that ORILLION was then on probation for possession of cocaine, which arose in Livingston Parish, Louisiana.
The investigation of ORILLION was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Denham Springs Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert W. Piedrahita.
DRUG CONSPIRACY RINGLEADER SENTENCED TO 327 MONTHS
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that Willie “Gator” Jones, Jr, age 38, Baton Rouge, was sentenced today in federal court by Chief Judge Ralph E. Tyson. JONES was sentenced to 327 months imprisonment for Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine, 60 months imprisonment each on two counts for Unlawful Travel in Aid of Racketeering Enterprise, and 48 months imprisonment each on two counts of Unlawful Use of Communication Facilities, and ordered to forfeit $12,634. All counts were ordered to run concurrently for a total sentence of 327 months.
This is the last defendant to be sentenced in a drug ring that controlled one of the largest cocaine distribution organizations in this district. Judge Tyson described JONES as “the primary moving force in a drug conspiracy distributing significant amounts of cocaine in the community for a substantial period of time.”
These charges were a result of “Operation Gator Bait,” an extensive investigation conducted by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) for the Middle District of Louisiana. The OCDETF is a multi-agency task force formed to investigate and prosecute criminal groups and individuals who organize, direct, finance, or are otherwise engaged in high level drug trafficking and related financial crimes. The OCDETF is comprised of agents from the Baton Rouge Resident Office of Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, and the U.S. Marshal's Service. Other participating members in this OCDETF investigation included the Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control Board, the Louisiana State Police, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office, the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, the Baton Rouge Police Department, and the Gonzales Police Department. This OCDETF investigation was coordinated by the United States Attorney's Office, with Deputy Criminal Chief Jennifer Kleinpeter serving as the OCDETF prosecutor.
United States Attorney Cazayoux remarked, “This case is an excellent example of the complicated multi-state drug trafficking investigations that the federal government is uniquely equipped to handle. The Baton Rouge DEA office and local law enforcement officials worked closely with the Houston DEA office to make certain that not only the local cocaine distributors, but also their sources in Houston, were identified and prosecuted in order to dismantle the entire drug trafficking organization. ”
This OCDETF operation successfully identified eleven local members of the drug trafficking organization and the five Houston residents who were supplying the cocaine to the Baton Rouge organization. The Houston residents were also prosecuted in this case. ###
FORMER ROSEDALE RESIDENT CONVICTED OF EMBEZZLING MORE THAN $490,000
BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that THERESA G. WATERS, age 45, formerly of Rosedale, Louisiana, and currently a resident of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, pled guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge James J. Brady to embezzlement from an employee benefit plan, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 664.
According to the factual basis contained in the parties’ plea agreement, WATERS began working for the South Central Laborers Training and Apprenticeship Fund (the “SCLTAF”) in Livonia, Louisiana, in September of 2003. The SCLTAF was an employee welfare benefit fund for the benefit of various union contractors throughout Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. Beginning in or about December of 2004, and continuing until in or about November of 2008, WATERS devised a scheme to embezzle from the SCLTAF by, among other things, making personal purchases and charges using her SCLTAF-issued credit card and then using SCLTAF funds to pay for the purchases. WATERS concealed her scheme for years by altering the SCLTAF’s credit card statements as they were received and maintaining a set of fraudulently-altered statements that omitted any reference to her purchases. During the course of her scheme, WATERS embezzled approximately $491,706.
A sentencing date has not been set. WATERS could receive a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain derived from the offense. The court will also order restitution.
United States Attorney Cazayoux said, “We will continue to be on the lookout for those who would attempt to steal or embezzle from covered employee benefit plans, funds that employees all across the region rely on for their training and benefits. As this case shows, we will also aggressively prosecute offenders. We appreciate the strong multi-agency cooperation and coordination that led to today’s conviction.”
West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Mike Cazes noted, “I was pleased to be able to continue this investigation,” which initiated in Point Coupee Parish. “I have zero tolerance for crime, which we know comes in all forms and fashions.”
Point Coupee Parish Sheriff Beauregard “Bud” Torres said, “This investigation, which started with a citizen’s complaint and became a joint effort with federal and state partners, was very important to us. We were pleased to be able to participate in the work to convict the defendant of this terrible crime.”
Roger Hilburn, Dallas Regional Director of the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, said, “I hope this sends a clear message to all who sponsor or transact business with employee benefit plans that the federal government will aggressively pursue those who commit crimes against employees and retirees of private-sector pension and health plans."
Daniel R. Petrole, Acting Inspector General, United States Department of Labor, said, “Today’s guilty plea sends a warning that the theft of union benefit plan assets will not be tolerated. My office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively investigate those who would line their pockets at the expense of plan participants."
The case was investigated by Detective Sergeant Ronald “Ron” Pourciau of the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office (formerly of the Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office), Senior Investigator Willie Byrd of the United States Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, and Regina J. Hein of the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General. The investigation received valuable assistance from the Louisiana Department of Justice-Office of the Attorney General’s High Technology Crime Unit, the Louisiana Workforce Commission, and the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alan Stevens and René Salomon.
LOUISIANA FATHER AND SON PLEAD GUILTY TO GUIDING ILLEGAL HUNTS
FOR PROTECTED ALLIGATORS
WASHINGTON—Larry Dees Sr., 66, and Larry Dees Jr., 37, both of Maringuoin, La., each pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, La., to two violations of the Lacey Act for leading sport hunters to unauthorized areas to hunt American alligators in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act and Louisiana law, the Justice Department announced.
According to statements made in court, on Sep. 10, 2009, and on September 24-25, 2009, Dees Sr. and Dees Jr., licensed alligator helpers, guided out-of-state alligator sport hunters to unapproved areas, that is, areas for which they did not have appropriate state authorization to hunt. On Sep. 10, the sport hunter killed a 9'4" trophy-sized alligator.
In plea agreements filed in court, the United States and Larry Dees Sr. and Larry Dees Jr. recommend, in addition to the sentence imposed by the court, that the Dees serve a three year term of probation during which they will be prohibited from hunting as follows: for one year of the probation they will be prohibited from engaging worldwide in all hunting activities, including guiding, with any kind of weapon; for the remaining two years of probation they will be prohibited from engaging worldwide in all commercial alligator hunting activities, including guiding, with any kind of weapon. The plea agreements are subject to approval by the court. Larry Dees Sr. has been licensed since 1992. Larry Dees Jr. has been licensed since 2002.
In the 1960s alligators were classified as endangered due to over harvesting. In order to save this important natural and economic resource, Louisiana imposed strict regulations on alligator hunting in the wild. As a result, the alligator population rebounded. The law requires that licensed alligator helpers must have hide, or CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), tags for the property on which they are hunting and must affix a tag to an alligator after the kill. Each tag is specific to a particular parcel of land. Annually, state biologists review alligator population data and decide where alligators may be hunted in order to preserve the species. Tags are issued for only those properties. Licensed helpers must hunt on tag-specific land. It is illegal to kill an alligator in an area for which the licensed helper does not have appropriate tags.
The American alligator is listed as a threatened species on the U.S. list of Threatened and Endangered Species. It also is listed as a crocodilian species on Appendix II of the CITES. To better regulate trade in crocodilian species, the parties to CITES agreed to a program of requiring a uniquely numbered tag to be inserted into the skin of each alligator immediately after it is killed. The tag is to remain with the skin as it travels in interstate or international commerce until it is manufactured into a final consumer product. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior promulgated special rules for American alligators that implement the CITES tagging program and regulate the harvest of alligators within the United States, including the requirement that American alligators must be taken in compliance with state law.
Larry Dees Sr. and Larry Dees Jr. each face a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $200,000 fine.
The case is being prosecuted by Claire Whitney of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice. The case was investigated by the Law Enforcement Division of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.
FIVE BELAIRE AREA DEFENDANTS ARRESTED
BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that five defendants were arrested on April 12, 2011, on federal gun and drug charges. All of the defendants are from the Belaire area. The ATF Metro Gun Task Force, in conjunction with the Violent Crimes Unit, targeted the Belaire area after numerous recent incidents of gun-related crimes. The Belaire area has one of the highest number of crime gun recoveries in the past 12 months in Baton Rouge. The five defendants are now in Federal custody.
The following defendants were arrested today:
JONATHAN WILLIAMS, age 29, was charged with being a felon-in-possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Williams faces a maximum sentence of ten (10) years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.
RONALD RANDALL, age 27, was charged with being a felon-in-possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Randall faces a maximum sentence of ten (10) years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.
DEATRIC BERRY, age 32, was charged with being a felon-in-possession of 6 firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and possession of cocaine base, also known as crack cocaine. Berry faces a maximum sentence of ten (10) years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 on the gun count, and one (1) year imprisonment and a fine of $100,000 on the drug count.
KENNY KYSER, age 21, was charged with being a felon-in-possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Kyser faces a maximum sentence of ten (10) years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.
CARDELL MINOR, 31, was charged with being a felon-in-possession of two firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and possession of cocaine and cocaine base, also known as crack cocaine. Minor faces a maximum sentence of ten (10) years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 on the gun count, and one (1) year imprisonment and a fine of $100,000 on the drug count.
ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Phillip Durham said, “Our goal is to continue working hand in hand with our other law enforcement partners to reduce violent crime in our communities. We will aggressively focus on removing firearms from the hands of the violent offenders. We will continue to focus on one neighborhood at a time, one perpetrator at a time, one illegal gun at a time, one gang at a time, and one hot-spot at a time. This is a critically important mission, and the indictments and arrests in this joint investigation proves that our team effort is paying off. We hope the citizens of Baton Rouge will continue to work with our team to make our communities safer places to live.”
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore stated, “This is another incident of how closely federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutors are working together to make Baton Rouge a safer place. I am very happy with the combined efforts and look forward to the initiative continuing.”
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. stated, “This is a prime example of how the ATF Metro Gun Task Force, in conjunction with the Violent Crimes Unit, which consists of our federal, state and local partners, can have a positive impact on specific neighborhoods within our community. We will continue to participate with our partners to bring order to our neighborhoods in need.”
This was a joint undertaking of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Louisiana State Police, Baton Rouge Police Department, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office, and the United States Marshals Service.
OPERATION ZENITH DEFENDANT CONVICTED
OF CONSPIRACY, MAIL FRAUD AND BRIBERY
United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced today that JAMAL M. ROMAN, age 50, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson to all the charges against him, including one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371; seven (7) counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341; and three counts bribery involving a federally-funded entity, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 666(a)(2). As a result of his conviction, ROMAN faces up to 175 years imprisonment and a fine of $2,750,000. ROMAN will also be required to pay restitution to his victims. ROMAN will be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson.
During the guilty plea hearing, ROMAN admitted his role in schemes involving sales tax fraud, bribery, and payroll tax fraud. With regard to sales tax fraud, ROMAN admitted, from May 2001 until March 2006, he defrauded the State of Louisiana, East Baton Rouge Parish, and Ascension Parish out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue. ROMAN did so by causing fraudulent monthly reports to be submitted concerning the sales at his restaurants, including Mis Padres Restaurant (formerly Papacito’s Restaurant) in Prairieville, Louisiana, and four restaurants in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, including Roman’s Café on Perkins Road, Roman’s Mediterranean Restaurant on Airline Highway, Roman’s Lebanese Greek Market on Government Street, and Mis Padres Restaurant (formerly Papacito’s Restaurant) on Bluebonnet Boulevard (collectively referred to as “the Roman Restaurants”).
During the guilty plea hearing, ROMAN also admitted that, in furtherance of the sales tax conspiracy, he funded multiple bribes to officials with the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditing Office in connection with an audit of his restaurants. The first bribe was paid in March 2004 to City-Parish Auditor Jerome Shore for the purpose of reducing the audit assessment from $100,000 to approximately $40,000. The second bribe was paid in October and November 2004 to the manager of the Auditing Office who, unbeknownst to the defendant and the conspirators, was cooperating with law enforcement authorities. The purpose of the bribe was to further reduce the audit assessment to $15,000. The third and final bribe was intended for the manager of the Auditing Office and funded by ROMAN in November 2004. The purpose of the bribe was to eliminate the assessment entirely.
During the guilty plea hearing, ROMAN also admitted that, from 2000 until 2006, he knowingly failed to pay payroll taxes on approximately half of the wages paid to employees at the Roman Restaurants. Such wages were paid by cash and corporate check. As part of the scheme, the defendant caused a payroll processing company to submit, via the U.S. Mail, false quarterly reports to the Louisiana Department of Labor which significantly under represented the number of employees at the Roman Restaurants and the amount of wages paid to those employees.
This case is part of Operation Zenith, a long-running investigation into fraud and corruption in the collection and payment of sales and payroll taxes. With regard to the sales tax fraud, Operation Zenith uncovered evidence that business owners and the president of an accounting firm had been under-reporting the sales from various businesses by over ten million dollars ($10,000,000) in order to avoid remitting sales tax to the state and local governments. In an attempt to conceal this massive scheme, the business owners and the accountant paid bribes to officials within the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office and agreed to bribe an auditor with the Louisiana Department of Revenue. In addition, the conspiracy count to which ROMAN plead guilty outlines the funneling of $700,000 to Syria as part of the conspiracy.
The status of the Operation Zenith defendants is as follows:
• Jamal M. Roman: Convicted for 1 count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery, 5 counts of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud, 2 counts of mail fraud involving payroll tax fraud, and 3 counts of bribery. Awaiting sentencing.
• Mohamed H. Ruman: Convicted of 2 counts of mail fraud involving payroll tax fraud. Awaiting sentencing.
• Rostom H. Laymon: Convicted of 1 count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud, 1 count of mail fraud involving payroll tax fraud, and 3 counts of bribery. Awaiting sentencing.
• Humam S. Al-Alousi: Convicted of 1 count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud, 1 count of bribery, and 1 count of making a false statement to the FBI. He was sentenced to sixty months imprisonment, a $100,000 fine, and $220,401 in restitution.
• Khoa Dinh Chau: Convicted of 1 count of mail fraud involving sales tax fraud and 1 count of bribery. He was sentenced to thirty-seven months imprisonment, a $30,000 fine, and $98,695 in restitution.
• Hassan S. Abousoayd: Convicted of 4 counts of bribery and 1 count of using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. Awaiting sentencing.
• Jerome R. Shore: Convicted of 1 count of bribery. Awaiting sentencing.
Operation Zenith is the result of the combined efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Louisiana State Police Criminal Intelligence Unit. The investigation has also been greatly assisted by the cooperation of the East Baton Rouge Parish Auditor’s Office. Other governmental agencies and entities also provided assistance, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Louisiana State University Police Department, the Louisiana Department of Labor, the Louisiana Department of Revenue, the Ascension Parish Sales and Use Tax Authority, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Government of Lebanon.
U.S. Attorney Cazayoux stated: “My office will continue to devote the necessary resources to successfully pursue complex corruption and fraud schemes, such as those perpetrated in the Operation Zenith cases. These fraud schemes directly impact our state and local governments’ ability to fund schools, roads, unemployment compensation, and other vital programs.”
David W. Welker, Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Division of the FBI stated: “This guilty plea represents the extremely positive results of multiple law enforcement agencies and prosecutors working together toward the common good of bringing to justice those individuals who would carry out fraud schemes that negatively impact the citizens of this state.”
Operation Zenith is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Criminal Chief Corey R. Amundson, Assistant United States Attorney Alan A. Stevens, and Assistant United States Attorney Reginald Jones.