SHREVEPORT, NEW ORLEANS, LAFAYETTE, La. – U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph announced today that a former Justice of the Peace for the Second Justice Court of Jefferson Parish was convicted by a federal jury in New Orleans for using his position to illegally obtain wage garnishments and loans. The jury returned its guilty verdict after deliberating for approximately three hours, ending a trial that began Tuesday, February 19, 2019.
Patrick Hale Dejean, 40, was found guilty this afternoon, of 13 counts of mail fraud and three counts of making false statements to a bank.
“Public corruption by our elected officials will not be tolerated in Louisiana,” said Joseph. “In this case, the Justice of the Peace 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 verdict should serve as a warning to other Louisiana public officials who may intend to use elected office to line their own pockets.”
Evidence presented at trial 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.
During the 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 to the Second Justice Court.
Evidence presented at trial proved 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.
Dejean faces up to 20 years in prison for each mail and wire fraud count and up to 30 years in prison for each count related to making a false statement to a bank. United States District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon set Patrick Dejean’s sentencing for May 23, 2019.
The case is being 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 is recused from the case.
The FBI and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor conducted the investigation. U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph and Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Luke Walker and David J. Ayo prosecuted the case.