Shreveport, New Orleans, Lafayette, La. – Today, Patrick Hale Dejean, former Justice of the Peace for the Second Justice Court of Jefferson Parish, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon to three years in federal prison for committing 13 counts of mail fraud and three counts of making false statements to a bank, announced United States Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, David C. Joseph. Judge Lemmon also ordered Dejean to serve a three-year term of supervised release following confinement and to pay $73,046.49 in restitution. On February 27, 2019, after a 7-day trial, Patrick Dejean was found guilty by a federal jury in New Orleans for using his position to illegally obtain wage garnishments and loans.
During Dejean’s trial, the government proved that from May 2009 through August 2016, Dejean diverted money from a Second Justice Court bank account for his personal use and made false statements to a bank to improperly borrow money on behalf of the court, which he later spent on himself.
At trial, jurors heard evidence that Dejean systematically abused the Second Justice Court’s garnishment procedures to defraud creditors and debtors with business before the court. As a Justice of the Peace, Dejean judged small claims civil cases for creditors seeking payment from customers who were behind in their payments. If a judgment was obtained by the creditor, Dejean issued garnishment judgments instructing employers of the debtors to send wage garnishments directly to the Second Justice Court.
Evidence showed that Dejean improperly used this process to enrich himself by failing to forward the proper amounts of the wage garnishments collected to the creditors and instead spent the money on himself, primarily to gamble at local casinos. In order to facilitate his scheme, Dejean would continue to garnish the wages on unsuspecting debtors after they had already paid the amount owed under the judgment.
The jury also found that Dejean lied on bank applications in 2012 and 2013 to influence First Bank and Trust to lend over $50,000 to the Second Justice Court. Dejean applied for bank loans on behalf of the court despite knowing that the court was prohibited by Louisiana law from borrowing money. Rather than using the loan proceeds for expenses related to the court, Dejean gambled with the money and otherwise used it for personal expenses.
“The sentence today holds the defendant responsible for the crimes he committed as a Louisiana elected official,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph. “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. This prison sentence should serve as a warning to other Louisiana public officials who may intend to use elected office to line their own pockets. Public corruption will not be tolerated in Louisiana.”
“The sentence handed down today should send a message to all public officials who engage in illegal and corrupt practices that they will be held accountable for their conduct,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Field Division Bryan A. Vorndran. “Patrick Dejean misused his office and a position of trust for his own personal benefit. The FBI New Orleans Field Office stands with our federal, state, and local partners and prosecutors to declare our commitment to vigorously investigate and prosecute corruption at all levels.”
The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana because the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana was recused from the case.
The FBI, Louisiana Legislative Auditor, Metropolitan Crime Commission, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Jefferson Parish Inspector General’s Office conducted the investigation. U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph and Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Luke Walker and David J. Ayo prosecuted the case.