“You have to give political money to the court, to all the judges. ... I'm talking about thousands, not hundreds.” 1
-- Lori Marcotte
Former Vice President and CEO
Bail Bonds Unlimited

Green took bribes, exec testifies; Bond firm's ex-CEO says judge sought, took cash
June 23, 2005

To the top executives of Bail Bonds Unlimited, Judge Alan Green was different from his colleagues on the 24th Judicial District Court bench.

"He asked for cash, and he put it in his pocket," Lori Marcotte, the company's former vice president and chief executive officer, told jurors Wednesday during Green's corruption trial.

Tearing to the core of the federal government's case, Marcotte, who is the sister of Louis Marcotte III, the admitted ringleader of the Jefferson Parish Courthouse racket, characterized one of the dozens of payments that prosecutors allege Bail Bonds Unlimited employees gave Green to entice him to set bonds for criminal defendants so the firm could turn a profit.

"It was a bribe. It was like our little secret," said Lori Marcotte, who along with her brother has pleaded guilty to a felony in the Operation Wrinkled Robe investigation. Louis Marcotte also is a potential government witness.

Taking the stand earlier in the day was state Rep. Jalila Jefferson Bullock, D-New Orleans, who testified that she never received a contribution from Green, who is her uncle, for her failed May 2002 campaign for the Legislature. Green was recorded by secret FBI video surveillance in his chambers in April 2002 taking $800 cash from Gretna City Attorney W.J. LeBlanc, who prosecutors have said intended the money for Jefferson-Bullock's campaign.

But the day's marquee witness was Lori Marcotte. She testified that her company's ties to Green began Sept. 16, 1992, when he visited Bail Bonds Unlimited's headquarters, dubbed the "blue house," to solicit a campaign donation for his first race for judge.

"He said he'll help us do bonds if he's elected," Marcotte recalled, adding that she, Louis Marcotte and their mother, Rita Marcotte, each gave Green $100 cash. Rita Marcotte also wrote Green a $200 check, Lori Marcotte said.

Golf, meals, champagne

Over the next decade, Bail Bonds Unlimited and Green developed a "long-term relationship" in which the Gretna company bought the judge golf rounds and meals and handed him at least two $5,000 cash payments in return for Green's near-constant willingness to set and split bonds for criminal defendants in ways that allowed Bail Bonds Unlimited to maximize its profit, Lori Marcotte said.

When Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Magner showed her a photo of Green's Marrero home, which was projected on a large screen, Marcotte said she had visited a few times: to deliver a Christmas gift basket with champagne; during a holiday party for Green's court staff for which Bail Bonds Unlimited provided liquor; and to supervise renovations done by Joey Bowley, the brother of Norman Bowley, the bond house's accountant who pleaded guilty June 9 to a crime related to the racket.

Marcotte said her company also fostered an alliance with ex-Judge Ronald Bodenheimer, who has pleaded guilty to crimes related to the federal probe and is serving a 46-month prison sentence.

"All the contributions we made, we did it to influence the office, but Judge Green and Judge Bodenheimer were different," Marcotte said. "They were in our business every day, the go-to judges."

Marcotte also explained a January 2002 telephone call between Louis Marcotte and Norman Bowley that was recorded by a wiretap. Lori Marcotte said the company's executives knew it was not the personal relationships they had forged with some judges but the money directed to their political accounts that helped their firm maintain its near monopoly on the Gretna bail bonds market.

The cash even flowed freely through legitimate means.  Bail Bonds Unlimited gave $35,750 in campaign donations to at least 56 elected officials in 5½ years. 2

When Louis Marcotte was considering moving to California to explore expanding their business, Lori Marcotte said others in the company worried that business in Louisiana would suffer as a result.

In the call, Bowley made the point to Louis Marcotte: "It ain't me, it ain't you, it's the friggin' money," he says, according to the audio recording played Wednesday.

Lori Marcotte told jurors she concurred with Bowley. "As long as we were giving them money, (Louis' departure) wouldn't affect business," she said.

'Splitting' bond amounts

Also taking the stand Wednesday, Jefferson-Bullock, whose father is U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, told jurors she never got any money from Green, or from another donor through Green. The congressman's wife, Andrea Green Jefferson, is Alan Green's sister.

Jefferson-Bullock said her campaign accepted no cash and that she personally did not raise money for that race, the first of her political career.

"I didn't solicit any campaign contributions at all," said Jefferson-Bullock, who won her seat in 2003. "I was new. I didn't know how to do that. I was nervous about asking people for money."

Wednesday's most extensive testimony came from 24th Judicial District Court Commissioner Carol Kiff, a friend and former campaign treasurer for Green, who said she and another commissioner returned gift baskets of wines, cheeses and breads sent to them by Bail Bonds Unlimited during the Christmas season in 1997 or 1998.

"Because we do most of the bonds, I did not want there to be any hint of influence," she said, adding that accepting such an item of value would be "unseemly, unethical, illegal."

Kiff, who is responsible for setting initial bonds for arrestees, also explained to jurors her reasons for setting particular bond amounts for seven defendants charged with violent and drug crimes in 2001 and 2002. Magner then projected on the screen documents showing that Green later "split" the bonds set by Kiff, reducing the sum each defendant needed to pay for a commercial bond to get out of jail.

Prosecutors have maintained that by splitting bonds to satisfy Bail Bonds Unlimited's request for the highest bond that a person could afford, Green sometimes opened the door for dangerous defendants to walk out of jail.

Collect first, set later

Marcotte testified that her company's sole aim was to pull in the maximum profit from the 12½ percent of the face value of a commercial bond. Jefferson Parish defendants or their families pay to cover the bond's premium and fees.

"It was kind of like, how much money do people have, or how much more can we get out of them?" she said, adding that in retrospect, "it's not something I'm proud of."

Marcotte said Bail Bonds Unlimited frequently turned the commercial bail bonding system on its head, first collecting bond premium payments from the defendants or their relatives, then calling on Green to set a bond in proportion to the amount of money the company already had in its hand.

Also testifying was Madisonville lawyer Jack "Bobby" Truitt, who detailed his experience in a civil trial decided by Green in 2001. Truitt represented retail giant Kmart Corp. against a slip-and-fall claimant represented by Kenneth Beck, who also worked as the in-house attorney for Bail Bonds Unlimited.

As part of Truitt's testimony, prosecutors played a conversation between Bowley and Beck and recorded by a government wiretap in which Bowley told Beck he spoke to Green about the judge's initial ruling in favor of Kmart. Green later reversed that ruling and awarded Beck's client $802,844, which an appellate court later reduced to $552,844.

Copyright 2005, The Times-Picayune Publishing Corporation

  1. Manuel Torres and Michelle Krupa, "UNLIMITED ACCESS: Sheriff Harry Lee failed to unravel years of corruption by a bail bonds company at the Jefferson Parish jail.  It took an FBI investigation to bring the scandal to light," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, April 18, 2004, National, p. 1.

  2. Meghan Gordon, "Disgraced bondsman candid on eve of jail; Marcotte lavished gifts but paid price, he says," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, October 27, 2006, National, p. 1.

From: Michelle Krupa, "Green took Bribes, exec testifies; Bond firm's ex-CEO says judge sought, took cash," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, June 23, 2005, National, p. 1.  Michelle Hunter contributed to this report.  Michelle Krupa may be reached at mkrupa@timespicayune.com.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.