GRETNA, La. — A Jefferson Parish justice of the peace has been disqualified from performing his duties as officials investigate the alleged misuse of thousands of dollars from the court’s operating account.
According to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office, Patrick Hale DeJean, a justice of the peace for the Jefferson Parish’s 2nd District court, was indefinitely suspended after it said that DeJean had borrowed money from the First Bank and Trust from March 2012 to July 2013, The Advocate reported.
Allegations of wrongdoing were received from the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana after it reported that DeJean had improperly handled money from the bank loans and was garnishing payments received by the court, depositing those payments into his court’s operating account and then using those funds for himself. The Advocate reported that in the commission’s recommendation for DeJean to be disqualified, it stated that there was evidence suggesting that he frequently made cash withdrawals from his court’s operating account and used the money at several casinos in the area.
Between August 2011 and September 2013, DeJean is alleged to have withdrawn around $218,000 from his court’s operating account at numerous casinos. Court documents state that these casinos include Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi; Boomtown in Harvey; Harrah’s in New Orleans; and L’Auberge in Lake Charles.
After receiving allegations of wrongdoing, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office began the investigation, NOLA.com reported.
The commission’s document stated that DeJean, who presided over the West Bank jurisdiction since 2008, ordered wage garnishments to be sent directly to his court and not to the judgment creditor, which is required by law.
From August 2011 to November 2012, DeJean is alleged to have written checks to himself from the court’s operating account amounting to more than $95,000, The Times Picayune reported. He alleges that he used some of those payments to cover court costs; however, the commission’s report stated that this explanation was not credible.
For 39 months starting from January 2011, the previous NOLA.com report stated, DeJean deposited around $208,196 in garnishment payments into the court’s bank account. However, authorities said, they were only able to ascertain $102,608 of that amount paid to creditors.
Meanwhile, between March 2012 and July 2013, DeJean is reported as having taken out four loans in the court’s name from First Bank & Trust, amounting to $52,840.
According to The Advocate, he is alleged to have told the bank that the loans would be used to buy new computer software and training for his staff.
Also under investigation is DeJean’s former constable, Antoine “Tony” Thomassie, who is alleged to have improperly used around $17,500 in fees from the Second Justice Court Deputy Constables Association from 2010 to 2013, as The Times Picayune reported in a separate account. In the audit, it states that Thomassie, founder of the organization, put cash donations into his campaign’s bank account, accepting food, drinks, and alcohol as “in-kind contributions.”
From January 2011 to March 2014, DeJean is suspected of having mishandled proceeds, that should have been handled by Thomassie until they were then transferred to a judgment creditor. The audit, stated, however, that the constable maintained a separate bank account to receive and pay-out garnishments.