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Month: April 2018

Sixteen People Charged With Racketeering In Counterfeit Check Scheme


April 27, 2018

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery hosted a press conference Friday (April 27) at 10:30 a.m. to announce the indictment of 16 suspects, charged with racketeering and 89 counts of bank fraud for an alleged check counterfeiting operation. The indictments, returned April 19, were the result of a yearlong investigation by Det. Nick Burtanog of the Slidell Police Department.

Between January and August 2017, the suspects operated as the “BME Mafia” and sought to defraud several banks, individuals, and government agencies, including the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. During a three-month scope of the operation, 89 checks, totaling more than $140,000, were discovered to have been presented to various financial institutions. The suspects called their scheme the “Nike game,” referring the sports company’s check logo.

“The criminal acts of financial fraudsters cause enormous damage to unsuspecting individuals and banks,” Montgomery said. “Check counterfeiting has reached epidemic levels as thieves become more sophisticated. We hope that this indictment shows the depth of our commitment to use all the tools in our arsenal, including racketeering laws, to fully prosecute these unlawful operations.”

The racketeering charge was a collaborative effort, resulting from Assistant District Attorneys working with the Slidell police department. Assistant District Attorney Butch Wilson is the lead attorney on the case.

Montgomery applauded the outstanding work of Detective Burtanog, who led the investigation at the Slidell Police Department, and thanked the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana State Police and the United States Secret Service for their assistance.

“White-collar crime is a costly crime that costs Americans over $300 billion a year,” Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal said. “Cooperative endeavors from multiple different law enforcement agencies brought down this criminal enterprise.”

The accused ringleader, Willie Mack Cauley, 40, of Slidell, has been arrested, and his bond was set at $1 million. Cauley, a rapper who runs an enterprise known as BlakMaze Entertainment, moved to St. Tammany in August 2016 after the Baton Rouge floods. He is accused of creating and/or providing counterfeit checks and identification to the other members of the enterprise, directing the operation, and receiving the majority of the profits.

Cauley allegedly enlisted the help of his associates in Baton Rouge to recruit co-conspirators, distribute, and present counterfeit checks out of the bank accounts of St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, Diamond Sharp Contracting Group, Blue Ridge of Sumpter, Ross Dress for Less, Rack Room Shoes, and other individuals. Cauley is charged with racketeering and 89 counts of bank fraud.

At least 16 counterfeit checks were presented against the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office account for more than $30,000. Another 15 counterfeit checks were presented against other victims in Saint Tammany and Washington Parishes for more than $15,000. All losses were reimbursed by each bank.

“Although, the Sheriff’s Office did not suffer any financial loss on behalf of the taxpayers, my staff has put additional controls in place to prevent future fraud attempts,” St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Randy Smith said. “We would encourage all residents to keep a close watch on their personal and business accounts. My office, along with our local and federal partners, will aggressively pursue anyone or any group looking to take advantage of our citizens.”

Bond was set at $200,000 for the remaining defendants, many of whom also have been arrested. The suspects, accusations against them, and charges as follows:

  • Teineka White, 43, of Sumter, South Carolina, accused of accessing account information as a retail vendor for Bank of America and sending it to Cauley via text; racketeering and 24 counts of bank fraud.
  • Kierra Dunbar, 20, of Slidell, accused of taking photos of legitimate customer checks at Ross Dress for Less and Rack Room Shoes, where she worked at the time, and providing them to Cauley for counterfeiting purposes; racketeering and 21 counts of bank fraud.
  • Victor Harris, 34, of Jacksonville, Florida, accused of giving a legitimate check, drawn on the account of Diamond Sharp Contracting Group, to Cauley, who then made counterfeit copies; racketeering and 11 counts of bank fraud.
  • Frederick Selders, 36, of Baton Rouge, accused of serving as a recruiter who enlisted individuals, known as “mules,” to cash the counterfeit checks and share in the profits; racketeering and seven counts of bank fraud.
  • Kelvin Carter, 25, of Gonzales, accused recruiter; racketeering and nine counts of bank fraud.
  • Marcus Nalls, 27, of Baton Rouge, accused recruiter; racketeering and five counts of bank fraud.
  • Tasha Variste, 31, of Baton Rouge, accused recruiter; racketeering and four counts of bank fraud.
  • Jonquayle McCoy, 24, of Baton Rouge, accused recruiter; racketeering and three counts of bank fraud.
  • Larry Womack, 23, of Slidell, accused recruiter, racketeering and nine counts of bank fraud.
  • Jonathan White, 40, of Biloxi, accused recruiter; racketeering and eight counts of bank fraud.
  • Robert Hatch, 26, of Baton Rouge, accused recruiter; racketeering and one count of bank fraud.
  • Steven Stanley, 27, of Baton Rouge, accused recruiter; racketeering and five counts of bank fraud.
  • Loreal Dunbar, 33, of Baker, recruiter; racketeering and six counts of bank fraud.
  • Derrick Variste, 33, of Baton Rouge, recruiter; racketeering and 17 counts of bank fraud.
  • Dareyan Byrd, 39, of Dothan, Alabama, recruiter; racketeering and two counts of bank fraud.




























Metairie Woman Pleads Guilty to DWI


April 24, 2018

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that Olivia Matte, 27, of Metairie, pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated (first offense) and improper lane usage Tuesday (April 24), after District Judge William Knight rejected her attempts to delay the case.

Knight sentenced Matte to a suspended six-month jail sentence, enrollment in a DWI and substance abuse treatment program, four eight-hour days of community service, a $600 fine plus court costs, and continued house arrest until charges pending against her in Jefferson Parish are resolved. She was required to pay a $50 fine plus court costs on the improper lane usage charge.

Matte was stopped on Dec. 7, 2016, by a Louisiana State Police trooper after he observed her car veer multiple times across the center line of Louisiana Highway 22 in Mandeville and then ride on the line for another 30 feet. The officer noted that Matte’s eyes were “bloodshot” and glossy and that she was swaying back and forth and smelled of alcohol. Matte refused a breathalyzer but failed a field sobriety test and was arrested.

Just weeks before her St. Tammany arrest, Matte had completed a Diversion Program for a previous DWI arrest on the Causeway in Jefferson Parish, and authorities there ultimately dismissed the charge. Though Matte was charged by State Police in St. Tammany with DWI second offense, D.A. Montgomery was prohibited by law from pursuing the case as a second offense because the initial charge had been dismissed.

Matte was charged with DWI a third time on March 23, 2017, while out on bond for the St. Tammany charge, after an accident on the Causeway in Jefferson Parish resulted in the death of a Mississippi man. Matte faces the following charges in Jefferson Parish: vehicular homicide, failure to maintain control, driving with a suspended license, and vehicular negligent injury.

Matte’s attorney requested a continuance Tuesday to delay the St. Tammany case, but Assistant District Attorney Harold Bartholomew objected, and Judge Knight rejected the attorney’s request. A short while later, Matte pleaded guilty to the charges.

Knight noted during the sentencing that by law he had to sentence Matte for a first offense DWI and that he could not consider the pending charges in Jefferson Parish.

Jury Finds Slidell Woman Guilty Of Stealing Identity From Social Media


April 19, 2018

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that a St. Tammany Parish jury found Cindy T. White, 41, of Slidell, guilty Wednesday (April 18) of theft of identity over $1,000 for stealing another woman’s identity via social media. White faces up to 10 years when she is sentenced by District Judge Scott Gardner on April 24.

In her opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Casey Dieck described the credentials that White had listed on her resume, including a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and a master’s from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Pointing to the defendant, Dieck said, “That’s not this person. This person stole the victim’s hard work and used it to get a six-figure salary and benefits to boot.”

White’s crime began to unravel in April 2016, when an employee of Diversified Foods and Seasonings contacted the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office about White, who had provided a fraudulent resume, social security number, and driver’s license number to get an executive level job. White had been hired in September 2015 as a human resources manager at the company’s Covington office at $95,000 per year. Five months later, she was promoted to senior human resources director at $105,000.

Company officials became suspicious, though, when White had trouble performing duties within the educational level and experience listed on her resume, and when she began delegating many tasks assigned to her. Upon closer inspection of her personnel file, authorities found discrepancies. Investigators ultimately determined that White did not possess the educational background on her resume and that she had copied it directly from the Linked In account of someone with a similar name. She also had obtained the woman’s Social Security number and Driver’s License number through an unspecified site online.

When investigators tracked White’s real Social Security number, they learned she had been arrested in New Orleans in February 1997 for theft, forgery, and malfeasance in office. At the time, White worked for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office and was accused of assuming a co-worker’s identity and emptying the victim’s bank account, before being identified by surveillance photos. White pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery on September 27, 1997, and was placed on probation. But court records indicate her probation was terminated in 1999 because the court received information that she was deceased. White also had pleaded guilty in Jefferson Parish to attempted theft of goods on December 4, 1998.

Between October 9, 2015, and May 6, 2016, White fraudulently collected $56,209 in salary from Diversified Foods. White admitted in a statement to investigators that she fraudulently used the victim’s educational experience and Social Security number to get the job. But her defense attorney argued during the trial that she actually earned the salary.

Contradicting the defense’s argument, Dieck added: “We have here a defendant who admits to stealing to cover up the fact that she’s a convicted thief.”

The case was investigated by St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Detective Stefan Montgomery and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Brian Grayson. Jurors deliberated just 15 minutes before returning the guilty verdict. Assistant District Attorney Butch Wilson assisted Dieck in prosecuting the case.

Bogalusa Man Pleads Guilty to Series of Arsons in Bogalusa


April 18, 2018

FRANKLINTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that Herman A. Thomas, 44, of Bogalusa, pleaded guilty Monday (April 16) to one count of aggravated arson and eight counts of simple arson for igniting a series of fires in Bogalusa over two years.

District Judge William “Rusty” Knight sentenced Thomas to six years in prison with four of the years suspended on the aggravated arson charge and two years on each of the simple arson charges. The two years are to be served concurrently without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

This case drew the attention of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal, after a series of eight mysterious fires were set in Bogalusa between 2015 and 2017. The last fire was set on Nov. 8, 2017, in a vehicle next to a home on Adams Street. The home owner was sitting on her front porch with friends, when Thomas walked up and told them that he had seen “a couple of black males” trying to steal something from the vehicle the night before. When Thomas walked to the car with another male, they found the car filled with smoke, and burning newspaper was removed from underneath the seat.

Investigators determined the fire to be arson and zeroed in on Thomas as a suspect. When they interviewed him about the arson, he admitted setting the Adams Street fire, as well as the seven others.

Thomas was scheduled for an arraignment hearing in court Monday, when he unexpectedly pleaded guilty.

Community Gathers At Franklinton Courthouse To Recognize Crime Victims


April 17, 2018

FRANKLINTON—Victims of crime, their supporters, service providers, public officials, and other community members joined District Attorney Warren Montgomery for a ceremony that his office hosted Thursday (April 12) in recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 8-14).

The event, held at the Washington Parish courthouse, opened outside with a dramatic raising of an oversize flag by the Franklinton Fire Department, followed by the presentation of colors by military units from Franklinton High School and Bogalusa High School. Guests later moved indoors to a second-floor courtroom for the remainder of the program, which included a keynote speech from Montgomery.

Montgomery said he and his staff never lose sight of the victims when they prosecute cases. “There is no greater job satisfaction than when we hear from victims and their families that they feel like justice was served,” he said.

Montgomery discussed some of the changes he has made since taking office, including adding three full-time Victim Assistance Coordinators, who help keep victims informed of the status of their cases and assist them through the prosecution process.  Before Montgomery took office in 2015, one person handled the entire caseload in Washington and St. Tammany parishes.

Other speakers included Franklinton Police Chief Olander Smith and his wife, Elisa Williams-Smith, who discussed the trauma of losing her 13-year-old son when a drunk driver struck the vehicle in which he was riding. Rhonda Gunnell of ADAPT Rape Crisis Center in Bogalusa talked about the services her agency offers.

ADAPT was among the recipients of the Victim Services Award, presented by Montgomery for extraordinary services on behalf of victims. Other award recipients included: Assistant District Attorney Ronnie Gracianette and Cathy Haley, a felony secretary who organized a toy drive for young victims in Washington Parish last Christmas. The Tomorrow’s Leader Award was presented to Delaney Stewart, 18, a senior at Pine High School, for outstanding leadership and service to victims. Montgomery also presented a number of certificates to staff members, community volunteers, and business donors who contributed to the event’s success.

The event was coordinated by Kinshasha Medina, Victim Assistance Coordinator in Washington Parish. Other program participants included Rev. Albert Brumfield, Pastor of Plainview Church of Christ Holiness in Mount Hermon, who delivered the invocation; Leanne Adcox, who sang the National Anthem; Deidra Owens, who sang “What About The Children,” and Bro. Tom Descant, Pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church of Franklinton, who delivered the benediction.

The program ended with a balloon release by guests, which included crime survivors and family members of crime victims.

A military unit from Franklinton High School presents the colors at the National Crime Victims’ Rights ceremony hosted by D.A. Montgomery’s Office in Washington Parish.

District Attorney Warren Montgomery, greets guests at the National Crime Victims’ Rights ceremony hosted his office in Washington Parish.

The Franklinton Fire Department raised an oversize flag for the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem at the National Crime Victims’ Rights ceremony hosted by D.A. Montgomery’s Office in Washington Parish.

Guests, including survivors of crime and family members of crime victims, released dozens of colorful balloons into the air at the closing of the National Crime Victims’ Rights ceremony hosted by D.A. Montgomery’s Office in Washington Parish.

Covington Man Gets 60 Years In Prison For Rape and Child Pornography Possession


April 13, 2018

COVINGTON—District Attorney Warren Montgomery reports that Jackson Richard Miller, 50, of Covington, pleaded guilty Thursday (April 12) to forcible rape, indecent behavior with a juvenile under 13, obstruction of justice, and 164 counts of possession of child pornography. District Judge August J. Hand sentenced Miller to a total of 60 years in prison without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

Between January and October 2009, Miller uploaded dozens of pornographic images of juveniles. He then raped an 8-year-old girl, took pornographic images of her, and behaved inappropriately with a 9-year-old girl, all between Jan. 1, 2015, and May 31, 2017.

Miller was scheduled to go to trial on April 23, but the parents of the victims requested the D.A.’s Office accept the guilty plea, as the sentence will likely result in the defendant dying in prison. Both victims’ parents and one of the victims attended the sentencing.

“Today I am here to give a statement about the impact you and your crime has had on my family,” the rape victim’s mother said, when given a chance to speak during the hearing. “My sweet little girl was 6 and a sweet innocent child when you made the decision to rape her. You made the decision to take her innocence, and in doing so, changed the course of our lives forever.”

The mother said she was determined to get justice for her daughter.  “As I like to say, ‘Mess with me, and I let karma do its job. Mess with my kids or my family, I become karma.’ We are survivors.  We were stronger than you.  We were smarter than you.  And now you are finally forced to take responsibility for your actions…Today, I am Karma.”

Hand sentenced Miller to the maximum of 40 years for the rape charge. Hand then issued the following sentences, which are to be served at the same time but after the rape sentence has been served: 20 years for indecent behavior, 5 years for obstruction of justice, and 20 years for each of the possession of pornography charges. The total time amounts to 60 years in prison.

The case was investigated by Brian D. Brown, Supervisory Special Agent of the Investigation Division of the Louisiana Department of Justice, and the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant District Attorneys John Alford and Blake Peters prosecuted the case. 

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week – Powerful Event in Washington Parish

District Attorney Warren Montgomery wishes to thank all who participated in the ceremony his office hosted yesterday at the Washington Parish Courthouse in Franklinton as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 8-14). It was a poignant event and powerful reminder that the victims and survivors of crime are why we do what we do. D.A. Montgomery was the keynote speaker, but other speakers included Franklinton Police Chief Olander Smith, Rhonda Gunnell of ADAPT Rape Crisis Center in Bogalusa, and Elisa Williams-Smith, whose 13-year-old son was killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. The program was organized primarily by Kinshasha Medina, Victim Assistance Coordinator in the District Attorney’s Washington Parish office.


Three teachers and three principals have been selected as the 2018-2019 St. Tammany Parish Public School System Teachers and Principals of the Year.

Named as 2018-2019 District Teachers of the Year are Malinda Meyer, Folsom Elementary in the Elementary Division; Lauren Bethancourt, Boyet Junior High in the Middle/Junior High Division; and Dr. Todd Tarifa, Northshore High in the High School Division.

The 2018-2019 Principals of the Year are Jeanine Barnes from Lyon Elementary in the Elementary Division; Mary Ann Cucchiara from Mandeville Junior High in the Middle/Junior High Division; and Saudah Blackman-Stokes from Salmen High in the High School Division.

“These six outstanding educators are extremely dedicated and devote their energy, passion and creativity to help their students succeed,” said Superintendent Trey Folse. “They are great examples of the difference teachers and school leaders make in our schools and community.”

Barnes also has been selected as a semi-finalist in the 2019 Louisiana Principal of the Year program held by the Louisiana Department of Education which honors the most exceptional school leaders from school systems across the state. She is among 24 principals selected to continue in the competition. Finalists will be announced in May, and all semi-finalists and finalists will be honored July 27th at the Cecil J. Picard Educator Excellence Symposium in Baton Rouge where the state winners will be announced.

Teachers and Principals of the Year are selected based on their success with students and, for principals, their work to support teachers. Each year, one teacher and one principal at each level – elementary, middle/ junior high and high school – are selected as the district level winners and move on to compete in the state competition.

Malinda Meyer has been a teacher for over 19 years and has taught kindergarten at Folsom Elementary since 2015. She has collaborated with administrators and teachers to implement district curriculum for regular and special education students. She serves on her school Leadership Team, School Improvement Team, Computer Committee, Hospitality Committee and Math and Literacy Committee. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a concentration in early childhood from the University of New Orleans.

Lauren Bethancourt has taught 8th grade science at Boyet Jr. High for three years. As her school’s Science Department Head, she facilitates professional development workshops and leads collaborative planning between teachers. She is a member of the School Improvement Plan Committee and is chair of the Boyet Jr. High Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports program. She received her bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and her teaching certification from the Louisiana Resource Center for Educators.


Dr. Todd Tarifa has been a teacher for over 20 years and has taught agriscience at Northshore High since 2013. He teaches agriscience, NCCER carpentry, small animal and horticulture, and also serves as assistant varsity girls basketball coach and head cross country coach. As the FFA Executive Board Sponsor, he works with students to plan FFA educational and community events and to compete in district, regional and state livestock shows. He received his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctoral degree from Louisiana State University.

Jeanine Barnes was appointed principal of Lyon Elementary in 2005 after previously serving as assistant principal at the school. She has been an educator for 35 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University and her master’s degree from Centenary College.

Mary Ann Cucchiara has been the principal of Mandeville Jr. High for 15 years. She previously served as assistant principal at Covington High and Resource Helping Teacher at Pitcher Jr. High. She has been an educator for 35 years. She received a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree plus 30 from Southeastern Louisiana University.

Saudah Blackman-Stokes was appointed principal of Salmen High in 2016 after previously serving as assistant principal at the school. She has been an educator for 21 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Hampton University and her master’s degree from Mercer University.