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 Sentencing scheduled for defendants in OWI bribery scandal
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10 months ago

Sentencing scheduled for defendants in OWI bribery scandal

Sentencing for five people involved in a bribery scheme in the Fifteenth Judicial District Attorney's Office will be sentenced in next spring.

Elaine Crump, Sandra Degeyter, Denease Curry, Greg Williams, and Barna Haynes will learn their fates in federal court on April 11.

The five were originally scheduled to be sentenced in August. The sentencing date was pushed back after the trial for the alleged ringleader, Robert Williamson, was postponed until March 10.

All five face jail time and fines of up to $250,000.

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11 months ago

PI pleads not guilty to bribery case charges, trial date set

United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that private investigator Robert Williamson, 64, of Lafayette, was arraigned Wednesday of this week before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Hanna on a nine-count indictment charging him with operating a pay-for-plea scheme that garnered favorable treatment for defendants charged with state violations of operating while intoxicated (OWI).
Williamson pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on a $50,000 bond. The trial date has been set for December 16, 2013.

The grand jury returned the Williamson indictment February 28, 2013, charging him with one count of conspiracy, six counts of bribery relating to the OWI scheme, one count of Social Security Fraud for claiming Social Security payments while not
reporting income from the bribery scheme, and one count of making false statements to a federal agent.

According to the indictment, Williamson, who is not licensed to practice law, was part of a conspiracy from March 2008 to February 2012 to solicit thousands of dollars from individuals with pending criminal charges in the 15th Judicial District.
Williamson promised favorable resolutions to pending felony and misdemeanor cases, the majority of which were OWI cases.

The indictment states that Williamson paid bribes in cash and other things of value to personnel within the District Attorney's office and employees with other organizations associated with the OWI program, including Acadiana Outreach.

Williamson is also alleged to have obtained false and fraudulent certifications from Acadiana Outreach, which certified that his clients completed court-ordered community service, when in fact the individuals had not. The indictment outlines that
Williamson would obtain fraudulent driver safety training certificates showing that Williamson's clients completed court-mandated driver improvement programs when they had not.

If convicted of the conspiracy, Williamson faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both with up to three years of supervised release. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a 250,000 fine or both with three years of
supervised release for each count of bribery, five years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both with three years of supervised release for the Social Security Fraud count, and five years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both with three years of supervised release for the false statements to a federal agent count.

An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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1 year ago

Williamson Arraignment Canceled

The arraignment for the alleged mastermind of a bribery scheme in the Fifteenth Judicial District Attorney's Office was canceled. Robert Williamson was scheduled to appear in court this morning. The case was initially postponed until the afternoon, but it was eventually canceled. A new court date has not yet been set.

1 year ago

Robert Williamson OWI bribery case

The private investigator accused of being the mastermind of the bribery scheme at the 15th Judicial District's has been released on a $50,000 bond, according to our media partner, "The Daily Advertiser."

Robert Williamson, 64, had his first court appearance today. The judge read his charges, which include one count of conspiracy, six counts of bribery for operating a pay-for-plea scheme that garnered favorable treatment for defendants charged with state violations of OWI, and one count of Social Security Fraud for claiming Social Security payments while not reporting income from the bribery scheme. Additionally, Williamson was charged with one count of making false statements to a federal agent.

His arraignment is scheduled for April 2 at 9:30 a.m.

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1 year ago

Private Investigator Federally Indicted On 6 Counts of Bribery

Today, a federal grand jury indicted a sixth person on charges related to the bribery scheme at DA Mike Harson's office.

Five people have already pled guilty in this ongoing case tied to the 894 process, in which employees at the DA's office admitted to taking cash to get OWI cases dismissed. The "894 process" allows people charged with certain crimes, like OWI's, to have their cases dismissed after meeting requirements like community service.

Now, Robert Williamson is being indicted on nine charges, including making false statements to a federal agent. Federal prosecutors essentially say Williamson was the ring-leader of this scheme. He worked in Lafayette as a private investigator, and prosecutors say he was the one bribing employees with cash and gifts in order to get favorable treatment for his clients.

According to the indictment, Williamson was part of the conspiracy from March of 2008 until February 2012, soliciting thousands of dollars from clients, in exchange promising them a favorable outcome to their cases.

"Robert Williamson also bribed employees at the district attorney's office, to include Barna Haynes, Greg Williams and Denease Curry, as a reward for coordinating, and facilitating, the immediate 894 sessions for clients in his OWI cases. Williamson also bribed current and past members, of Acadiana Outreach, Elaine Crump and Sandra Degeyter, in return for creating false, and fraudulent, Acadiana Outreach community service certificates," said U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley.

Williamson is being charged with one count of conspiracy; Six counts of bribery for operating a pay-for-plea scheme; One count of Social Security fraud for claiming Social Security payments while not reporting income from the bribery scheme; And one count of making false statements to a federal agent.

"Specifically that he had never paid anyone from the 15th JDC, district attorney's office, anything, when in fact he had paid money to employees at the 15th JDC on numerous occassions for their assistance in the resolution of certain matters," said Finley.

In addition, Williamson will be forced to forfeit $22,855 related to the bribes.

"We're going to follow wherever the evidence in this case takes us. If that mean additional bills of information, additional indictments, we're going to do that, because I think we owe the citizens of this community," said Finley.

The U.S. Attorney's Office stresses the investigation is still ongoing, more arrests could be on the way. Williamson could face up to 75 years in prison.

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1 year ago

Williamson indicted for bribes in exchange for favorable OWI case resolution

Today, a federal grand jury indicted private investigator Robert Williamson, 64, of Lafayette on one count of conspiracy, six counts of bribery for operating a pay-for-plea scheme that garnered favorable treatment for defendants charged with state violations of operating while intoxicated (OWI), and one count of Social Security Fraud for claiming Social Security payments while not reporting income from the bribery scheme. Additionally, Williamson was charged with one count of making false statements to a federal agent.

According to the indictment, Williamson, who is not licensed to practice law, was part of a conspiracy from March 2008 to February 2012 to solicit thousands of dollars from individuals with pending criminal charges in the 15 Judicial District by promising favorable resolutions to their pending felony and misdemeanor cases, the majority of which were OWI cases. The favorable resolution of OWI cases included having the cases placed in "immediate 894 sessions."

The Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 894 provides a procedure by which a person can initially plead guilty to a crime with the understanding that the conviction will be set aside if the person successfully completes certain requirements imposed during a probationary period, including community service.

The indictment states that Williamson paid bribes in cash and other things of value to personnel within the District Attorney's office and employees with other organizations associated with the OWI program, including Acadiana Outreach.

Williamson is also alleged to have obtained false and fraudulent certifications from Acadiana Outreach, which certified that his clients completed court-ordered community service, when in fact the individuals had not. The indictment outlines that Williamson would obtain fraudulent driver safety training certificates showing that Williamson's "clients" completed court-mandated driver improvement programs when they had not.

Williamson would then take these certificates and provide them to District Attorney's office staff members who would file them in the court record during the clients'"immediate 894 session."

If convicted, Williamson faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both with up to three years of supervised release for the conspiracy count. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a 250,000 fine or both with three years of supervised release for each count of bribery, five years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both with three years of supervised release for the Social Security Fraud count, and five years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both with three years of supervised release for the false statements to a federal agent count. A trial will be scheduled at a later date.

"This case should serve as a reminder that private citizen facilitators who participate in corruption conspiracies will be held as accountable as public officials," said Mike Anderson, Special Agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New Orleans Division.

An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Luke Walker and Richard Willis are prosecuting the case.

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1 year ago

Fifth Guilty Plea in OWI bribery case

Sandra Degeyter, 61, is the second case manager from Acadiana Outreach to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. It was revealed in court Tuesday that she was part of the conspiracy from 2008, until February 2012, and received more than $5,000 in cash bribes and donations for the non-profit.

According to the bill of information, Degeyter provided false community service certificates for more than 50 people charged with crimes, mainly OWI. After she left Acadiana Outreach in 2009, She began splitting her money with Elaine Crump, another case manager who has already pled guilty to similar charges. Degeyter used Crump's signature on the false documents. Find the bill of information here.

With the guilty plea, Degeyter waived her right to a trial. She could face up to five years in prison or a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for August 8.

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1 year ago

Acadiana Outreach Case Manager Pleads Guilty to OWI Bribery Scheme

Another person has pleaded guilty in the 894 bribery scheme at the 15th Judicial District Attorney's Office. Elaine Crump, 59, of Lafayette, pleaded guilty to Misprision of a Felony, which means she failed to report a bribery scheme.

In federal court, Crump, a former Acadiana Outreach Center case manager, admitted to helping another former case manager forge Crump's signature on fraudulent certificates, according to US Attorney Stephanie Finley. The certificates verified that people who pleaded guilty using an 894 plea completed court-mandated community service, but they had not. The 894 process allows someone charged with certain crimes, to plead guilty, and after meeting certain requirements, like community service, the charge would be cleared.

According to the court, the other former case manager falsified the documents then later approached Crump to help her when Crump was promoted to case manager Acadiana Outreach in 2009. "The former case manager proposed to Crump that she, the former case manager, would continue preparing fraudulent Acadiana Outreach certificates on official letterhead, and in exchange for payments, Crump would allow her, the former case manager, to forge Crump's signature on the fraudulent certificates," Finley said.

Crump received payments between $25 and $100 in cash and knew the former case manager was handing over the false certificates to someone else in exchange for cash, according to the court. "In September of 2011, shortly after Crump was laid off from Acadiana Outreach, the former case manager proposed to Crump that she, the former case manager, continue creating additional fraudulent certificates and forging Crump's name on them, but backdating the documents to a period in which Crump was employed by Acadiana Outreach. Crump agreed and continued to receive payments from the former case worker," Finley said.

Crump could face up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both, and a term of supervised release of not more than three years, following prison.
"Crump's work at the Outreach Center was an important part of the 894 process and was designed to help people and assist in protecting the public, not to help facilitate Crump's greed. My office and the FBI will continue to investigate and prosecute corruption in the Western District of Louisiana," Finley said.

Another person has pleaded guilty in the 894 bribery scheme involving the 15th Judicial District Attorney's Office. Elaine Crump, 59, of Lafayette, pleaded guilty to Misprision of a Felony, which means she failed to report a bribery scheme.

In federal court, Crump, a former Acadiana Outreach Center case manager, admitted to helping another former case manager forge Crump's signature on fraudulent certificates, according to US Attorney Stephanie Finley. The certificates verified that people who pleaded guilty using an 894 plea completed court-mandated community service, but they had not. The 894 process allows someone charged with certain crimes to plead guilty, and after meeting certain requirements, like community service, the charge is cleared.

According to the court, the other former case manager falsified the documents then later approached Crump to help her when Crump was promoted to case manager Acadiana Outreach in 2009. "The former case manager proposed to Crump that she, the former case manager, would continue preparing fraudulent Acadiana Outreach certificates on official letterhead, and in exchange for payments, Crump would allow her, the former case manager, to forge Crump's signature on the fraudulent certificates," Finley said.

Crump received payments between $25 and $100 in cash and knew the former case manager was handing over the false certificates to someone else in exchange for cash, according to the court. "In September of 2011, shortly after Crump was laid off from Acadiana Outreach, the former case manager proposed to Crump that she, the former case manager, continue creating additional fraudulent certificates and forging Crump's name on them, but backdating the documents to a period in which Crump was employed by Acadiana Outreach. Crump agreed and continued to receive payments from the former case worker," Finley said.

Crump could face up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both, and a term of supervised release of not more than three years, following prison.
"Crump's work at the Outreach Center was an important part of the 894 process and was designed to help people and assist in protecting the public, not to help facilitate Crump's greed. My office and the FBI will continue to investigate and prosecute corruption in the Western District of Louisiana," Finley said.

1 year ago

Two More Employees Plead Guilty in Bribery Case

Today, Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams (44) pleaded guilty to a one-count Bill of Information charging Williams with Conspiracy to Commit Bribery. His secretary, Denease Curry (46) plead guilty to a separate one-count Bill of Information charging her with Misprision of a Felony, failure to report the bribery scheme.
The District Attorney's Office had previously established a process to allow defendants to receive an 894 plea bargain. In order to qualify for the "immediate 894 plea," the charged individuals had to provide proof that they had completed all legal prerequisites, including community service, a substance abuse program, and a driver safety program.
Following the entry of the "immediate 894 plea," the judge would immediately grant the 894 motion dismissing the conviction, which later served as an acquittal, this would allow those OWI defendants to immediately reinstate their driving privileges.

Williams and Curry became aware of the co-conspirator back in 2010 when Curry was approached by Haynes to set up court future court hearings.
In 2010, the co-conspirator #1 began giving gifts to Curry. Curry is said to have received payments totaling $1600. In the same year, the co-conspirator gave Williams a series of gifts and a cash payment as a reward for his participation in the "immediate 894 sessions."

Williams faces a term of imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000.00, or both, and a term of supervised release of not more than three years. Curry faces a term of imprisonment of up to three years, a fine of up to $250,000.00, or both, and a term of supervised release of not more than three years.

District Attorney Mike Harson, says that he doesn't feel that there will be any new names released from his office.

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1 year ago

Two more Lafayette DA employees charged in bribery scheme

The newest charges against employees who work in the Lafayette District Attorney's office claim an assistant district attorney and his secretary were aware of a bribery scheme that lined their pockets with cash and gave OWI defendants special treatment. Monday, Barna Haynes, DA Mike Harson's longtime office administrator and secretary pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy and receiving $55,000 in bribes. Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams, 44, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. His secretary, Denease Curry, 46, pleaded guilty to failing to report the bribery scheme. Williams and Curry resigned Wednesday, according to Harson.

According to U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley, in 2010, Williams and Curry became aware that Haynes and her co-conspirator were resolving cases, mainly OWI cases, without going through the normal process. The normal process involves what's called an "894 plea," which allows anyone charged with OWI to meet requirements and their case wouldn't be placed on any docket. After meeting requirements, like community service, a substance abuse program, and a driver safety program, a judge would acquit the defendant of the charge and driving privileges would be reinstated.

Haynes' co-conspirator has yet to be named, but he solicited clients and Haynes processed them through the 894 process without meeting the requirements and without the DA's approval, netting $500 for each case. Williams was the prosecuting attorney in all of the 894 sessions conducted for Haynes' co-conspirator's clients, and Curry assisted in coordinating those sessions. According to Finley, Williams and Curry were aware of defendants paying the co-conspirator for being allowed to plead in the 894 sessions. Curry was regularly contacted by Barna Haynes to help coordinate the "immediate 894 sessions," Finley said. According to court documents, they also knew the co-conspirator was not licensed to practice law.

"At the request of Barna Haynes, Curry would contact the district judge's chambers for the purpose of setting the session, give the judge's staff the names of the OWI defendants who were to plead guilty, and obtain a date and time for the upcoming session," Finley said. Curry would then inform Haynes' co-conspirator of a date and time for the 894 session, according to court records. Finley said Curry would regularly see and interact with the co-conspirator and on days when defendants met with him, he would escort them into Williams' office where Williams would explain what to expect during the 894 session.

Curry received a series of $200 payments and talked to Haynes about it, and Haynes told Curry she also received payments from the co-conspirator. "Curry received approximately eight payments from coconspirator #1 totaling $1,600. In 2010 and 2011, co-conspirator #1 gave Williams a series of gifts and a cash payment as a reward for his participation in the "immediate 894 sessions," Finley said.

The gifts included an autographed New Orleans Saints hat, bicycles and clothing for Williams and family members, and the co-conspirator gave Williams $500 in cash.

Sentencing will be at a later date. Williams faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Curry faces up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000.00, or both.

Click here for Williams' bill of information

Click here for Williams' plea agreement

Click here for William's stipulated factual basis

Click here for Curry's bill of information

Click here for Curry's plea agreement

Click here for Curry's stipulated factual basis

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1 year ago

2 more charged in court bribery investigation

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - Federal prosecutors have charged two more people in an ongoing investigation of bribes for favorable treatment in the Lafayette court system, including an assistant district attorney.

According to court filings, Greg Williams, an assistant district attorney in the 15th Judicial District Attorney's office, faces one count of conspiracy.

Prosecutors have also charged Denease Curry with one count of misprision of a felony for allegedly not reporting the bribery scheme when she had knowledge of it, though it was unclear Thursday for whom she worked.

The Advocate reports the charges come after District Attorney Mike Harson's longtime secretary and office administrator, Barna D. Haynes, pleaded guilty Monday to accepting at least $55,000 in bribes to help criminal defendants get favorable treatment, mainly in DWI cases.

Prosecutors wrote in court filings that the bribery scheme went on for about four years without Harson's knowledge, in part because of a "lack of oversight and safeguards."

All of the deals arranged by Haynes were approved by a judge in special court sessions handled by the same assistant district attorney in Harson's office, federal prosecutors have said.

Prosecutors did not identify that staff member, but Williams is the only assistant district attorney who has been charged thus far in the case.

The person who allegedly paid the bribes has been identified by federal prosecutors only as "co-conspirator No. 1." U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley declined to say earlier this week whether that person is cooperating in the case.

1 year ago

District Attorney's Former Secretary Pleads Guilty

Barna Haynes plead guilty in federal court to Conspiracy and receiving $55,000 in bribes.

For about four years, from March 2008 to February 2012, Haynes and an accomplice used a 'legal' process to 'illegally' rack up cash under District Attorney Mike Harson's nose.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley says, "Barna Haynes was involved with a co-conspirator who was not a lawyer, who she was assisting and facilitating cases to be resolved by the 15th J.D.C. and in exchange they were both getting paid to resolve those cases without going through the normal process."

The accomplice has yet to be named, but according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, he and Haynes worked together to circumvent a D.A. program called 'Article 894'.

It allows a person to plead guilty to a crime with the understanding that the conviction will be set aside if certain requirements are met, like community service, and entering substance abuse and driver safety programs instead of going to court.

"They were only able to resolve these only if they were clients of the co-conspirator. These individuals got special treatment," says Finley.

The accomplice solicited clients, and Haynes processed them through the 894 process 'without' the D.A.'s approval.
Netting five hundred dollars for each case.

Finley says ,"In all of the cases, there was no defense counsel present, there were no probation officers present."

Haynes admits she received $55,000 in bribes, but Finley says it could be as much as $75,000.

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2 years ago

FBI accesses district attorney's servers

The FBI confiscated two servers belonging to the 15th Judicial District Attorney's office. The Advertiser reported that Lafayette Clerk of Court Louis Perret gave the FBI access to two servers.

KATC confirmed with Perret that he granted the FBI access to District Attorney Mike Harson's two servers which sit on the clerk of court's network.

In February, the FBI executed a search warrant at Harson's office and confiscated OWI and DWI files. Since the search, Harson put his assistant Barna Haynes on leave without pay in association with the investigation.

To read the full Daily Advertiser story click here.

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2 years ago

Search Warrant Served at Lafayette District Attorney's Office

A search warrant was served Monday night at the Lafayette District Attorney's Office by the federal court. District Attorney Mike Harson says they were looking to search the office of one of his employees. Harson says he provided access and full cooperation was given. He also says "I am not clear as to the full scope of any investigation and will not comment further on any aspect of it so as not to in any way impede or interfere in the process."

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