GAMBLING PROBE LOOKS AT GIFTS TO LAWMAKERS

Published: Friday, August 18, 1995
Edition: THIRD
Section: NATIONAL
Page: A1
Dateline: BATON ROUGE
Byline: By TYLER BRIDGES, JACK WARDLAW, and ED ANDERSON Staff writers

Text:

A wide-ranging federal probe of Louisiana's gambling industry is focusing on whether state legislators have received illegal gifts or favors from gambling lobbyists, records indicate.

A federal subpoena obtained by The Times-Picayune shows federal agents are asking lawmakers to produce bank records, campaign finance documents and any record of gifts or payments - from cigars to golf rounds and boating equipment - from a long list of prominent individuals and companies involved with legalized gambling. The subpoena seeks records from Jan. 1, 1992, to the present.

The list of companies and individuals includes Harrah's, which owns and operates the New Orleans land casino, and all 10 members of Jazzville, a group of Louisiana businessmen and lawyers who own about 15 percent of the casino.

In a related development, federal authorities have subpoenaed the state casino board to produce records of a company with ties to a pro-gambling state senator that supplies furniture to Harrah's.

"The investigation is obviously at an early phase, but many of us have been concerned about the insidious effect that gambling was having on the legislative process over the past four years," state Rep. Chuck McMains, R-Baton Rouge, said. "And this would seem to bear this out."

Authorities were tight-lipped Thursday about the scope of the investigation, but legislators interviewed by federal agents said they think it centers on a failed legislative effort to give local communities the option to vote out existing gambling operations or ban new ones, especially as the law would have applied to video poker machines.

Sen. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge, a casino opponent who sits on the Judiciary B Committee, which hears gambling legislation, said federal officials subpoenaed committee transcripts and computer records.

The subpoena indicates that Harrah's casino and at least one of the state's Indian casinos are involved in the probe. The legislation approving the Harrah's casino was approved in mid-1992 and riverboat casinos and video poker were legalized in 1991.

Authorities are not saying how many legislators are being investigated.

But Sen. Mike Cross, D-Baker, who was interviewed by FBI agents Thursday, said, "They told me they're going to talk to all of us."

L.J. Hymel, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana and head of the investigation, said it is "very sensitive" and he declined to provide further details.

Hymel did confirm that the inquiry - which came to light Wednesday when lawmakers began receiving subpoenas - is continuing and that more legislators will be questioned. He said he expects to have a public statement within the next two weeks.

The list of companies whose contributions are under investigation includes:

The Boomtown Belle riverboat casino in Harvey.

The Casino Chalmette, the company that was to operate a gambling boat in Chalmette but dropped plans to do so recently because of financial problems.

Darrell Hunt, a lobbyist for Harrah's and other companies.

American Entertainment Corp., which was in partnership to own the Chalmette boat.

Louisiana Casino Cruises, which has owned 60 percent of the Casino Rouge boat in Baton Rouge.

John Georges, head of Delta Gaming Inc., the state's biggest distributor of International Gaming Technology Inc. slot and video poker machines.

The federal subpoena asks for detailed information on gifts or contributions from a husband-and-wife lobbying team, Johnnie Lynn Berry and Joe Wood.

The subpoena lists the associations the Woods represent as the Tobacco Institute, the New Orleans and Louisiana Hotel/Motel associations, the New Orleans and Louisiana travel/tourism boards, and the Louisiana Travel Centers Association, which represents video poker truck stops.

The subpoena asks lawmakers whether they received "liquor; free food and/or entertainment at the 'Green House,' in Baton Rouge; tobacco products, including cigars or cigarettes; rounds of golf at the Sherwood Country Club; any personal items or gifts received, including sporting good products such as golf bags, fishing equipment or boating equipment."

The Green House is a small private club near the Capitol where lobbyists wine and dine legislators. Joe Wood is associated with the club.

House Speaker John Alario, D-Westwego, and Senate President Samuel Nunez, D-Chalmette, pledged that legislative officials would "fully cooperate" with the investigation.

"We're a little taken aback that this would happen just 60 days before an election," Alario said, referring to the fall legislative and gubernatorial elections.

House and Senate leaders said they were handed subpoenas by the FBI for copies of three bills considered at the 1995 regular session aimed at giving local voters the right to say yes or no to legalized gambling, along with transcripts of committee hearings on the measures and other data. The local-option effort failed in the closing hours of the session.

Both leaders said they knew of no activity in connection with the handling of the local-option issue that might have triggered federal concern. By late Thursday, 19 of the 39 senators had been contacted, but Alario said he knew of only three House members who had.

Cross, who has consistently opposed gambling bills, said FBI agents "told me they were meeting with and talking to everyone, but only some will get subpoenas."

Rep. Gerald Theunissen, D-Jennings, a member of the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice, and Rep. Elias "Bo" Ackal, D-New Iberia, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said after talking to agents that they think the investigation is centered on video poker and the location of the games at truck stops.

Theunissen said he was quizzed about video poker truck stop legislation "and no other form of gambling."

Ackal confirmed he has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury to turn over his personal and political finance records by Sept. 14. He said he was served at his New Iberia office Wednesday.

"They wanted my records for campaign contributions and my personal records," he said. "I have nothing to hide. They can turn it upside down."

The subpoenaed casino board records involve Gulf South Business and Consultants Inc., which is a furniture distributor for Harrah's.

Gulf South was the source of controversy earlier this year when it was revealed that Sen. Larry Bankston, D-Port Hudson, is an attorney for the firm and attended meetings with Harrah's officials where the furniture deal was discussed. Bankston is chairman of the Senate committee that hears all gambling bills and regulations.

Wilmore Whitmore, then-chief executive officer of the board, temporarily barred Gulf South from doing business with Harrah's while he investigated whether this posed a conflict of interest.

Bankston and Gulf South officials said that while he worked as an attorney for the company, he did not do so in the Harrah's contract. They said he was involved to try to help Gulf South because it is a Louisiana company.

Whitmore licensed Gulf South after he found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Staff writer Chris Adams contributed to this report.

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#ART:

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA

To: SUBPOENA TO TESTIFY BEFORE GRAND JURY

SUBPOENA FOR: PERSON X DOCUMENT(S) OR OBJECT(S)

LIST OF DOCUMENTS REQUESTED

For the period January 1, 1992 to the present:

1. All bank account records;

2. All reports filed with any entity, state, federal or local, which list campaign information pertaining to you or your fundraising activities;

3. All records related to money or any other things of value received from any gambling or gaming interest; any record of whether giving or payment was direct or passed through a political action committee, political party entity, or other agent or nominee.

    Information on gambling or gaming contributors or payors is to specifically include, but not be limited to, the following persons or entitees or their agents or nominees:

    The investigation is being run by the U.S. Attorney in Baton Rouge and involves FBI agents and the state's two other federal prosecutors.

    Investigators want financial and campaign records. Recipients of the subpoenas are primarily state legislators.

    Of particular interest is money received from about 50 individuals and businesses with ties to the gambling industry.

Edward (Ed) Amar
American
  Entertainment Corp.
Boomtown Belle
David Burdsall
Casino Chalmette
Carl Cleveland
John Cummings III
Salvador (Sal) Diesi
Carl Eberts
Calvin Fayard
Henry Cole
  Gahagan Jr.
  (Coley Gahagan)
Paul Gallagher
Wendell Gauthier
John Georges
Fred Goodson
Harrah's
Harrah's Jazz Co.
Darrell Hunt
Jerry Jackson or
  Gerry Jackson
The Jena Band of
  Choctaw Indians
  of Louisiana Inc.
Donald (Don) Kelly
Ronnie Lamarque
Luther Lott
Louisiana Casino
  Cruises
Leon Miletello
Burnell Moliere
James L. Moore
James W. Moore
Bob Nims
Lamar Ozley
Joseph (Joe)
Palermo
Duplain Rhodes III
Harold Rosbottom
Louie Roussell III
Michael St. Martin
Robert Shreve
Ty Sibley
T. George Solomon
Earl Stark
Herbert (Herb) Stathes
Donald (Don) Williams
Johnnie Lynn Berry,
  aka Lynn Berry, and
  Joe Wood Berry, aka
  Joe Wood -- both
  dba Joe Wood &
  Associates -- or
  their clients:
  Tobacco
  Institute, New
  Orleans/Louisiana
  Hotel/Motel
  Association New Or-
  leans/Louisiana
  Travel/Tourism
  Board, Louisiana
  Travel Centers
  Association Inc.
  (Truck Stop Associa-
  tion).


GIVERS AND TAKERS

According to campaign finance reports analyzed by The Times/Picayune, gambling interests named in the subpoena gave more than $250,000 to state legislators in 1993-94. It is not known who has received subpoenas or who is the target of the investigation.

MAJOR CAMPAIGN DONORS

WENDELL GAUTHIER, Jazzville partner

RONNIE LAMARQUE, Jazzville partner

LOUIE J. ROUSSELL, Ex-Star Casino

MICHAEL ST. MARTIN, Jazzville partner


MAJOR RECIPIENTS

REP. JOHN ALARIO, D-Westwego $13,100

SEN. DENNIS BAGNERIS, $6,500

SEN. DIANA BAJOIE, D-N.O., $7,000

SEN. LARRY BANKSTON, D-Port Hudson $10,400

SEN. FRANCIS HEITMEIER, D-Algiers $10,150

10 PHOTOS


MONEY PROBE

Federal investigators are demanding from many state legislators information on campaign contributions and other payments from gambling and other interests, specifically from the following people and businesses. According to a Times-Picayune analysis of state campaign records, these interests and related entities gave $251,748 to the listed legislators in 1993 and 1994.


THE GIVERS

Roussel, Louie J, III $132,500
The Tobacco Institute $ 16,000
Gauthier & Murphy $ 11,400
Ozley, Lamar E, Jr. $ 11,200
Lamarque Motor co $ 10,200
Woodward Hunt Inc. $ 8,398
Michael St. Martin Rental $ 7,250
Rosbottom, Harold L, Jr $ 6,750
Boomtown $ 6,050
Jackpot Novelity Inc. $ 5,500
Eberts, Carl $ 5,500
Betty, Joe Wood or Lynn $ 3,950
Moore, James $ 3,200
Fayard, Calvin C $ 3,100
Gallagher, Paul $3,000
Solomon, George $2,500
Georges, John $2,250
Amar, Edward $2,000
Stathes, Hebert $2,000
Palermo, Joe, Jr. $1,500
Stark Companies $1,500
Cummings, Cummings
  & Dudenhefer $2,250
La Gaming Corp $1,250
American Entertain-
  ment Corporation $1,000
Goodson, Fred $ 500
Rhodes, Duplain, III $ 450
Gahagan, Coley $ 50


THE GETTERS

Alario, John, Jr $ 13,100
Chabert, Marty $ 11,950
Murray, Edwin $ 11,400
Bankston, Larry $ 10,650
Heitmeier, Francis $ 10,150
Ansardi, Glenn $ 8,750
Cain, James $ 8,600
Hines, Donald $ 7,750
Bagneris, Dennis, Sr $ 6,500
Bajoie, Diana $ 6,500
Romero, Craig $ 6,450
McPherson, William J, Jr $ 6,400
Russo, Michael $ 6,000
Campbell, Foster $ 5,750
Hinton, Gerry $ 5,400
Brinkhaus, Armand $ 5,250
Cross, Michael $ 5,000
Tarver, Gregory $ 5,000
Cox, James $ 4,600
Rayburn, B B $ 3,750
Haik, Theodore M, Jr $ 3,500
Theriot, Steve $ 3,250
Pierre, Wilfred $ 3,000
Wilkerton, Pinkie $ 3,000
Warner, Thomas $ 2,950
Dastugue, Quentin $ 2,800
Cravins, Donald $ 2,750
Anding, Charles $ 2,700
Ackal, Elias "Bo", Jr $ 2,500
Jordan, J Lomax, Jr $ 2,500
Kelly, Donald $ 2,500
Landry, Ron $ 2,500
Nunez, Samuel, Jr $ 2,500
Thompson, Steve $ 2,500
Alexander, Rodney $ 2,400
Montgomery, Billy $ 2,400
Mccleary, Micharl $ 2,150
Riddle, Charles, lii $ 2,150
Mccain, Audrey $ 2,100
Odinet, Kenneth, Sr $ 2,100
Quezaire, Roy, Jr $ 1,900
Lancaster, Charles, Jr $ 1,750
Barro, Gregory $ 1,500
John, Christopher $ 1,500
Singleton, Wille $ 1,500
Theriot, Samuel $ 1,500
Martiny, Daniel $ 1,450
Deville, John $ 1,400
Bruneau, Charles, Jr $ 1,300
Copelin, Sherman $ 1,250
Donelon, James $ 1,250
Durand, Sydnie $1,250
Deano, Edward, Jr $1,200
Hebert, Dennis $1,200
Toomy, Joseph $1,100
Accardo, Joseph Jr $1,000
Barham, Robert $1,000
Bergeron, Robert $1,000
Curtis, Israel $1,000
Dardenne, John, Jr $1,000
Dewitt, Charles $1,000
Diez, John $1,000
Doerge, Everett $1,000
Farrar, Rick $1,000
Hammett, Bryant, Jr $1,000
Krieger, Suzanne $1,000
Laborde, Joseph
  Raymond $1,000
Lewis, Cynthia $1,000
Patti, Frank $1,000
Pratt, Renee $1,000
Siracusa, John $1,000
Sittig, Dale $1,000
Windhorst, Stephen $1,000
Travis, John $ 900
Guzzardo, Buster, Sr $ 850
Picard, Cecil $ 800
Hollis, J Kendrick $ 750
Green, Kyle $ 700
Hunter, Wille, Jr $ 700
Higginbotham, Donald $ 500
Lalonde, J Raymond $ 500
Theunissen, Gerald $ 500
Reilly, Sean $ 448
Dimos, Jimmy $ 400
Mccallum, Jay $ 400
Mitchell, Danny $ 400
Simpkins, C O $ 400
Hainkel, John Jr $ 350
Long, Jimmy, Sr $ 350
Irons, Pualette $ 250
Lambert, Louis J, Jr $ 250
Smith, John $ 250
Theriot, Mitch $ 250
Thomas, Jerry, Md $ 250
Vitter, David $ 250
Brun, Roy $ 200
Forster, Garey $ 200
Mcdonald, Charles $ 200
Weston, Sharon $ 200
Morrell, Arthur $ 150
Salter, Joe $ 100

Staff research by CHRIS ADAMS

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