By David Jones | WVUE | February 15, 2022
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell responded Tuesday to the news that five NOPD officers had received federal target letters following the FOX 8 Lee Zurik investigation “Attention to the Details.”
The five officers who sources said received the letters are now-retired NOPD Sergeant Todd Morrell, Morrell’s brother Nicholas, along with officers Michael Stalbert, Rene Benjamin, and Brian Sullivan.
The investigation centered on NOPD officers double-dipping, or receiving payment for both detail work and duty work at the same time.
“Accountability across the board, that’s what we’re about. That’s what we stand for,” Cantrell said. “Any bad actors, we need to deal with them swiftly and directly, and I believe that’s what is being done by the FBI.”
Federal target letters are the first sign of a federal investigation and potentially grand jury indictments coming down the pike, said Rafael Goyeneche, head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
“This investigation is something that’s been going on for quite some time to get to this level,” Goyeneche said. “The feds don’t necessarily play all of their cards at the same time. There’s a strategy in all of this. They usually do these things in phases that fit the investigations and where they stand.”
Cantrell, meanwhile, said the NOPD is focused on ridding the department of bad apples.
“It’s about our city and it’s about our department, literally that’s second to none,” she said. “Any threats to that is a problem, and that’s something we want to rid ourselves of 100%.”
FOX 8′s investigation looked into those officers and others who possibly double dipped, meaning they were paid for duty and detail work at the same time. FOX 8′s investigations also revealed many officers worked lengthy shifts against NOPD policy and raised more questions about whether they were actually physically working the details they were paid for.
The reporting also centered on now-retired Sgt. Todd Morrell, who was found to be racing cars on the Westbank while clocking either overtime or working detail shifts.
Morrell was found to be one of the highest-paid officers on the force over the past three years.
“The fact that these are target letters is an indication that a grand jury is looking into this, and to get to a grand jury stage… this isn’t a fishing expedition,” Goyeneche said. “They have viable evidence that at least justifies presenting evidence to a federal grand jury.”