State judge faces federal fraud charges; Filing identifies two lawyers in St. Bernard as conspirators
July 2, 2009

More than two months after being arrested by the FBI in connection with a judicial corruption scheme, St. Bernard Parish Judge Wayne Cresap has been formally charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Two St. Bernard Parish lawyers, accused in the scheme, were also charged Wednesday.

Cresap, 62, was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in a bill of information, along with St. Bernard Parish lawyers Victor J. "V.J." Dauterive and Nunzio Salvadore "Sal" Cusimano.

The official charges brought against Cusimano and Dauterive bring an end to months of rumors in the St. Bernard legal community about the identity of Cresap's alleged co-conspirators, previously known only as "Lawyer A" and "Lawyer B." But the bill of information alleges that the bond-rigging scheme also involved "others known and unknown to the United States attorney," along with the three named defendants.

According to the bill of information, Cresap allegedly took more than $1,000 in cash from each lawyer in exchange for allowing inmates to be released from the St. Bernard Parish Prison without putting up bond money.

Cresap, Cusimano and Dauterive "did knowingly and willfully devise a scheme and artifice to defraud the citizens of the State of Louisiana and Parish of St. Bernard, by depriving them of the honest and faithful judicial services of Wayne G. Cresap, services which should be free from deceit, bias, self-dealing and concealment," according to the bill of information.

Conversion of bonds

The U.S. Attorney's Office outlines a scheme in which Cresap converted secured bonds, which require actual money or property to be pledged, into personal surety bonds that required only a written agreement that the money would be paid if the defendant skipped court. The lawyers would take cash from the inmate's family or friends, then split the money with Cresap.

Dauterive declined to comment Wednesday evening, saying "I haven't been told anything, so I really can't confirm anything." A woman answering the phone at Cusimano's home said he was unavailable and hung up.

Cresap's attorney, Pat Fanning, could not be reached for comment because his voice mailbox was full.

Cresap was arrested April 24 by the FBI in connection with the scheme. Cresap was released from Orleans Parish Prison shortly after the arrest.

The affidavit from the initial arrest says Cresap admitted the scheme when FBI agents confronted him in a parking lot April 9. He was arrested more than two weeks later and charged based on a criminal complaint, an unusual tactic for cases involving white-collar defendants.

Letten said agents arrested him at that time because of concerns that Cresap might harm himself.

Interim appointment

Last month, the Louisiana Supreme Court appointed retired Judge Robert Klees, a former chief judge for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, to take over Cresap's court through Nov. 7. The Supreme Court's decision came after Cresap filed a motion for interim disqualification with the Louisiana Judiciary Commission.

Both Cusimano and Dauterive have been active in St. Bernard's legal and civic communities for years. Cusimano currently serves on the parish's Planning Commission, which is appointed by the council. Dauterive is chairman of the St. Bernard Community Foundation, an arm of the Greater New Orleans Foundation that aims to funnel nonprofit funds to recovery projects in the parish.

Dauterive was active with the St. Bernard Parish Police Jury, the forerunner to the Parish Council, in the 1980s. As the secretary-treasurer of the Police Jury, Dauterive pleaded guilty in 1987 to concealing the commission of a felony as part of a federal probe into bid-rigging and kickbacks in the parish.

Cresap had been a central figure in some of St. Bernard's most far-reaching and controversial lawsuits, including the politically charged fight over the estimated $250 million estate left by Arlene Meraux, the heiress to St. Bernard land baron Joseph Meraux's fortune.

Copyright 2009
The Times-Picayune Publishing Corporation

From: Chris Kirkham, "State judge faces federal fraud charges; Filing identifies two lawyers in St. Bernard as conspirators," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, July 2, 2009, Metro, p. 1.  Kirkham can be reached at  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.
Further Reading
  • Chris Kirkham, "Judge, lawyers plead innocent to wire fraud; 3 are accused in St. Bernard bribe case," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, July 17, 2009, Metro, p. 1.