Time behind bars in a federal prison
Louisiana judge Patrick Dejean is facing a three-year federal prison sentence after being found guilty of siphoning funds from debtors’ paychecks to feed his gambling addiction. The offenses took place from May 2009 until August 2016, during which period Dejean transferred more than $73,000 into his personal account.
US District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon, who was in charge of the case, deemed Dejean guilty of 13 counts of mail fraud. The 40-year-old was also found guilty of three counts of making false statements to a financial institution.
Dejean transferred more than $73,000 into his personal account
Dejean will have to report to a minimum-security facility close to Pensacola, Florida on January 6, 2020. He will also have to serve three years under supervised release after leaving prison, as well as pay more than $73,000 in restitution to the victims of his theft.
Major win in the fight against public corruption
Leading the case was Western District of Louisiana District Attorney David Joseph. He said: “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.”
Joseph went on to say that the three-year prison sentence should be a warning to any other public officials in the state who may be considering using their position for their financial benefit. He added that there will be no tolerance for such public corruption in Louisiana.
Dejean’s underhanded practices
The trial for the case took place in February over the course of seven days. The jury heard about how Judge Dejean was the judge for civil cases involving small claims. Such cases mainly involved creditors trying to obtain payments from their customers who were in arrears.
On receiving the garnishments, the judge would not send the funds to the creditors
If a judgment was ruled in favor of the creditors, Judge Dejean would tell the debtors’ employers to direct the wage garnishments straight to the Second Justice Court, where he was serving. On receiving the garnishments, the judge would not send the funds to the creditors. He primarily used the money to gamble at local casinos instead.
Another way Dejean was lining his pockets was by continuing to allow the employers of the debtors to send these wage garnishments, even when the total amount in arrears had been paid.
Dejean also borrowed money from a bank on behalf of the court, making false statements to do so. This money was also gambled away at casinos. As per Louisiana law, courts are not legally allowed to borrow money.
Judge Dejean’s defense argument
The prosecutors argued that Dejean had actually stolen $158,544, adding that the record-keeping within his court was “an utter nightmare”. The judge presiding over the case rejected this figure as the calculation did not sufficiently meet the burden of proof.
Dejean’s attorneys’ argument was that bank account irregularities happened as a result of the little bookkeeping experience the judge had.
Dejean admitted that his gambling addiction would cloud his judgment. His attorneys presented the extent of his addiction, with the judge withdrawing a total of $234,000 from casino ATMs in the area.
While the gambling judge took full responsibility for what he did, he maintained he did not like the way the prosecutors treated him.