Louisiana Judge Imprisoned for Gambling Away Debtor Payments

Posted on: October 16, 2019, 01:36h. 

Last updated on: October 16, 2019, 02:40h.

A judge in Louisiana has been sentenced to three years in a federal prison after being found guilty of siphoning off money deducted from debtors’ pay checks, which he blew mainly in local casinos.

Patrick Dejean
Wrong side of the gavel: Former Justice of the Peace Patrick Dejean skimmed money from debtors’ payments to fund his casino gambling habit. (Image: Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Between, May 2009 and August 2016, Patrick Dejean used his position as a Justice of the Peace  — the term in Louisiana to describe low-level judges who do not oversee jury trials — to divert at least $73,046 in wage garnishments into his own pocket, according to a news release from the US Department of Justice.

“The sentence today holds the defendant responsible for the crimes he committed as a Louisiana elected official,” said US Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana David Joseph in a statement.

“In this case, Justice of the Peace Dejean targeted some of the most vulnerable members of our society and stole their hard-earned wages, defrauded banks, and abused the trust placed in him by the public,” he added. “This prison sentence should serve as a warning to other Louisiana public officials who may intend to use elected office to line their own pockets. Public corruption will not be tolerated in Louisiana.”

From Bench to Dock to Jail Cell

During his seven-day trial in February, a jury in New Orleans heard that a major part of Dejean’s role was judging small-claims civil cases for creditors seeking to claw back payments from customers who had fallen into arrears.

If a creditor obtained a judgment, Dejean would instruct debtors’ employers to send wage garnishments directly to the Second Justice Court, where he served. But he neglected to forward them to creditors.

He would also continue to garnish the wages of unsuspecting debtors after they had paid the amount owed under the judgment.

Dejean also made false statements to a bank to fraudulently borrow money on behalf of the court, which he also later blew at casinos. This, despite knowing that courts are forbidden from borrowing money under Louisiana law.

Sending a Message

“The sentence handed down today should send a message to all public officials who engage in illegal and corrupt practices that they will be held accountable for their conduct,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Field Division, Bryan A. Vorndran.

“Patrick Dejean misused his office and a position of trust for his own personal benefit,” he added. “The FBI New Orleans Field Office stands with our federal, state, and local partners and prosecutors to declare our commitment to vigorously investigate and prosecute corruption at all levels.”

US District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon also ordered Dejean to serve a three-year term of supervised release on the completion of his sentence, and to pay over $70,000 in restitution.