Police officer pleads guilty to accepting cash payments from Desperado’s Cabaret owner
LAFAYETTE, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that a Carencro Police officer pleaded guilty to receiving cash payments from James Panos, former owner and manager of Desperado’s Cabaret, while the officer was in charge of regulating exotic dancer permits for the Carencro Police Department, and during a time Desperado’s operated as an illegal enterprise.
Timothy Prejean, 42, of Carencro, La., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard T. Haik to interference with commerce by extortion under color of official right. According to evidence presented at the guilty plea, Prejean accepted cash payments from James Panos during the years Prejean processed and delivered exotic dancer licenses for Desperado’s employees. Additionally, Prejean failed to investigate reported illegal activity at Desperado’s from 2007 to December 5, 2012. The illegal activity involved prostitution in the VIP room and drug distribution/use inside the business. During this time, Prejean was assigned as the liaison officer between the Carencro Police Department and Desperado’s for the purpose of enforcing local ordinances pertaining to exotic dancer licensing and related regulations.
Prejean improperly received a total of $10,000 in cash and other benefits from club owners James and Jennifer Panos while in performance of his regulatory duties. Other benefits included no cover charge to enter, free access to the VIP rooms, and free drinks.
James Panos, Jennifer Panos, and eight other defendants were charged in a 10-count indictment on May 15, 2013, alleging racketeering conspiracy, drug conspiracy, and firearms charges. The charges are the result of an investigation of drug trafficking, drug distribution, prostitution, and other illegal activity that took place at Desperado’s Cabaret in Carencro located on Northeast Evangeline Thruway.
“Timothy Prejean violated his oath of office and the public’s trust by failing to uphold the law and by taking cash payments from a corrupt business,” said Finley. “The people of Carencro deserve and expect more from their law enforcement officers. My Office will lead the charge in investigating and bringing to justice corrupt public officials.”
James Panos, Jennifer Panos and the remaining defendants were sentenced on August 7, 2014. As part of the plea agreement, the owners agreed to forfeit illegal proceeds already seized, return proceeds illegally earned, and they agreed to forfeit the Desperado’s property to include the building and land.
Prejean faces up to 20 years in prison, three years supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date was not set.
The DEA, FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Louisiana State Police, and Lafayette Metro Narcotics investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Myers P. Namie and Daniel J. McCoy prosecuted the case.