Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sphincters Raging in Da Parish

Posted By on Sat, Apr 25, 2009 at 4:36 PM

The feds have arrested St. Bernard District Judge Wayne Cresap on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was arrested late Friday and transported to the federal wing of Orleans Parish Prison, sources say (think: Jefferson Parish District Judge Ronald Bodenheimer). U.S. Attorney Jim Letten has confirmed only that the case involves attorneys, bribes and bond reductions. I have a feeling this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The case has been under investigation for a while — and remains ongoing.


Cresap is wired big-time into the prevailing St. Bernard Parish power structure. He is pals with all the entrenched political players, and if he rolls, we may see some big names come tumbling down. My sources describe Cresap as someone unlikely to withstand the kind of pressure that the feds can put on somebody they want to turn. “He’ll sing like a canary,” one source says, “if he’s not doing that already.” Suffice it to say that sphincters are raging in Da Parish this weekend.


The timing of this case is interesting. When the feds want to sweat someone, they often arrest him late on a Friday afternoon, as was done here. That way, the perp gets rolled into the federal wing of OPP after the last federal magistrate has gone home for the weekend, which means he will spend a weekend from hell as the guest of Sheriff Marlin Gusman (no reflection of the sheriff, but I can’t imagine a weekend in OPP being anything but hell). By the time he gets his constitutionally guaranteed appearance in front of a magistrate on Monday morning, he’ll be a basket case. Think the feds might ask him between now and then if he wants to talk about any of his friends in St. Bernard? Hmmm…


My sources say this case started long ago — more than a year, maybe two years or more. If that’s the case, the case against Cresap (in typical federal fashion) will be tighter than a gnat’s behind. And that means his only chance to avoid doing big time in the pokey is to roll over on his (former) pals in St. Bernard.


Let’s also note that at least two attorneys in St. Bernard are involved. They are described in the FBI’s supporting affidavit as “Lawyer A” and “Attorney B.” My sources say it’s likely that both attorneys are already cooperating. In a close-knit, insular political culture such as St. Bernard’s, that increases the likelihood of somebody rolling over on somebody farther up the political food chain. It could pull back the curtain on lots of political and financial shenanigans in Da Parish, not just a judge getting kickbacks from a pair of lawyers.


Meanwhile, take a closer look at the affidavit linked above. It notes in Paragraph 3 that Special Agent Todd A. Goodson, is “not setting forth each and every fact known to me concerning this investigation. I am including what I believe are facts sufficient to establish probable cause for the complaint sought.” Translation: There’s probably a lot more to this. Cresap is just the tip of the iceberg.


Now let’s look even closer at the affidavit. Forgive me for being an editor (can’t help it), but Paragraph 4 of the document sets forth details of how Cresap allegedly converted standard commercial (“paid”) bonds to “personal surety” (“free”) bonds at the request of Lawyer A, who allegedly would then collect attorney fees from friends or family of the perps seeking the free bonds and split the fees with Cresap. It’s a garden-variety bribery and kickback scheme. The next paragraph is numbered “6” (there is no Paragraph 5) and states that Cresap was interviewed by other FBI agents on April 9 — 15 days before his arrest on Friday — in a public parking lot (the parking lot of the St. Bernard Courthouse, mayhaps?), where Cresap “admitted that he committed the acts described in Paragraph 5 of this affidavit.” Okay, maybe it’s just a typo that there’s no Paragraph 5, or maybe there was a Paragraph 5 that got cut and Paragraph 6 did not get renumbered. Like I said, I can’t help being an editor — and I’m not suggesting any problems with the case — but it makes me go “hmmm” when I see stuff like that. Equally interesting, Paragraph 6 goes on to state that Cresap “admitted that he accepted the money in exchange for converting the bonds on numerous occasions. The defendant also admitted that he had a similar arrangement with another attorney, Attorney ‘B.’”


My guess is the affidavit simply contains a typo and that there’s no missing Paragraph 5. I say this because all the relevant information referenced in Paragraph six is contained in Paragraph 4, and somehow the paragraphs just got mis-numbered after 4. Probably no big deal. What is a big deal is that Cresap admitted to doing this on numerous occasions with at least two lawyers. It’s also significant that he admitted this to two FBI agents in a public parking lot 15 days before his arrest, and then suddenly, after those 15 days, he gets picked up and put away for the weekend. Might word have leaked out that he was talking to the feds? Again, it makes me go “hmmm.”


At this point, there are only two possibilities with regard to how much bigger this case gets:  Either this is an isolated case and Cresap is the only one with unclean hands (along with Lawyer A and Attorney B), or this is the beginning of the St. Bernard version of Operation Wrinkled Robe.


My money says it gets bigger. Like I said, sphincters are raging in da parish dese days.

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