Friday, February 25, 2005

This Week’s Scandal…

Paul Murphy of New Orleans’ ABC26 News reports on their web site that “The fix is out at New Orleans Traffic Court. Federal prosecutors announced the indictment of three city workers accused in a ticket-fixing scheme at the courthouse.”

Federal agents say corruption there costs the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. They call the new round of charges a promising break in what they call a long history of wrongdoing at the courthouse.

"We've had information and I spoke with the staff this morning, for the last 15 years that there have been problems with alleged innuendo at the traffic court regarding the fixing of tickets," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lou Reigel.

So far, the charges and the accused are rather small time by Louisiana standards. James W. Lee, the former supervisor of community service for both the criminal district and traffic courts in New Orleans is accused of taking a bribe to dismiss a traffic court case. Grounds Patrol Officer Bobby Grant is also accused of accepting money to fix a ticket. Mickey Torregano, a judge's secretary in Section "D" is accused of knowing about fixed tickets but failing to report them.

Federal agents say they caught the ticket fixing on tape. They used undercover audio and video along with cooperating witnesses to make the case.

"There were multiple transactions as part of the undercover operation, but the individuals have only been charged with one particular incident," said Reigel.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten says the investigation is continuing and there will likely be more indictments in the ticket fixing scandal. Letten won't confirm or deny whether any judges were involved in the alleged wrongdoing.

Speaking to reporters, Letten asked, "You've asked are there judges involved?" "I mean, number one, we can't say, we can't speculate about this and we don't want to cause any speculation about who's involved."

FBI Special Agent in Charge Lou Reigel says the city should conduct a top to bottom audit at traffic court. He says it's obvious, the system of checks and balances there isn't working.

Last month a grand jury indicted former Assistant City Attorney Edwin E. Burks and Court Clerk Bernetta J. Claiborne in that same investigation.


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