Governor John Bel Edwards' office has responded to a federal investigation and guilty plea that involves the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
"We were first made aware of the Bill of Information and the allegations therein earlier this week when asked about it by news media. We take these allegations extremely seriously and are seeking more information," said Shauna Sanford, the governor's Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications.
We reached out to the LDWF press office on Tuesday, when KATC Investigates found the unsealed bill of information and guilty plea in question; Dusty Guidry admitted to a conspiracy and bribery scheme involving the Lafayette District Attorney's Pre-Trial Diversion program, as well as several programs of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Our media partners at The Advocate/Times Picayune are reporting they obtained some public records that seem to implicate the Secretary of that Department, Jack Montoucet, as one of the unnamed "public officials" in Guidry's guilty plea.
"A high-ranking official at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries took a payoff from a Youngsville man for a contract the department signed with a private company on Oct. 8, 2021, federal prosecutors in Lafayette disclosed on Tuesday," the Picayune story states. "The official who signed that contract was Jack Montoucet, the agency’s secretary, according to records obtained by The Times-Picayune on Thursday through a public records request. The documents appear to show Montoucet was involved in the kickback scheme laid out by federal prosecutors. Montoucet has not responded to messages seeking comment."
To read the Picayune's full story with all the details, click here.
Guidry pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy and bribery charges in federal court, admitting that he and at least two unnamed public officials worked together to extract bribes and other things of value from vendors who were charging defendants for classes and other required processes. To read our story, click here.
Since part of the scheme involved his people, we also reached out to District Attorney Don Landry, and on Wednesday said his office will continue to cooperate with a federal investigation into its pre-trial diversion program.
"From the beginning, we have fully cooperated with the US Attorney's office and we will continue to do so until this entire investigation is brought to a close and justice is served for those who violated the law," a statement from Landry read. "We cannot ever tolerate someone taking bribes to enrich themselves while working in any capacity for the DA's office. Our office is filled with hardworking, honest people who work every day with law enforcement to keep our community safe."
Landry said he learned of the charges against Guidry, and of his plea, yesterday. That's when KATC Investigates requested a comment from him regarding those developments. He said it was "disheartening" to find that Guidry was colluding with vendors, and noted that "their actions seriously betrayed the public trust."
He added that changes have been made since the FBI served a search warrant on his office last year.
"Since this investigation began, we have added safeguards to our office in an effort to prevent anything like this from taking place again," Landry said. "We will continue to prosecute murders, rapes and armed robberies, along with other serious felonies, and put the dangerous criminals in prison to keep our community safe."
Almost a year ago, the FBI searched the District Attorney's Office; Landry told KATC at the time that they were looking at the pre-trial diversion program. To read that story, click here.
The 10-page bill of information, unsealed last week, lays out a conspiracy that began in 2021 and lasted until 2022 involving the pre-trial diversion program, two unnamed public officials and four "vendors."
Guidry used to work for the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office, but he was working as an "agent" of the Lafayette DA's pre-trial diversion program in January 2021 when the alleged conspiracy began.
Guidry was appointed to the Cajundome Commission by Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, and to the state Wildlife and Fisheries Commission by Gov. John Bel Edwards.