U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of Louisiana
(318) 676-3641
November 14, 2014

Desperado’s Owner Sentenced to 72 Months in Prison for Racketeering Conspiracy

LAFAYETTE, LA—United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that Desperado’s Cabaret owner James Panos was sentenced to 72 months in prison for racketeering conspiracy.

James “Jim” Panos, 56, of Broussard, La., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote for one count of racketeering conspiracy at the now closed Desperado’s Cabaret in Carencro, La. He was also sentenced to two years of supervised release and agreed to forfeit illegal proceeds, 10 firearms already seized, the Desperado’s property, to include the building and land.

In addition to Panos, his wife, Jennifer Panos, 48, of Broussard, was also sentenced to 48 months in prison and two years of supervised release for one count of racketeering conspiracy, as well as forfeiture of the items listed.

The following former Desperado’s employees were also sentenced today for one count of conspiracy to maintain drug involved premises and distribution of controlled substances:

  • Tanja Clavier, 29, of Church Point, Louisiana was sentenced to five years’ probation.
  • Acquila Latigue, 28, of New Iberia, Louisiana was sentenced to five years’ probation.

“The defendants conspired to promote an environment of drug abuse and prostitution in our community without regard to the harm it caused,” Finley stated. “This office will continue to work to prosecute anyone who violates the law and damages our communities with these types of activities. I want to thank the law enforcement agencies for their hard work.”

James Panos, Jennifer Panos, Clavier and Latigue are the last defendants in a 10-count indictment to be sentenced. They were charged on May 15, 2013, in an indictment alleging racketeering conspiracy, drug conspiracy, and firearms charges. The charges are the result of an investigation of drug trafficking, drug distribution, prostitution, and other illegal activity that took place at Desperado’s Cabaret in Carencro located on Northeast Evangeline Thruway.

On August 7, 2014, Desperado’s co-owner Dipak Vora, 70, of Baton Rouge, and five others were also sentenced for their roles in the illegal activity at Desperados’. Vora was sentenced to 10 months in prison, one year of supervised release and a $10,000 fine for one count of interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering, and Gerald Cormier, 44, of Carencro, was sentenced to 29 months in prison and one year of supervised release on his conviction for distribution of cocaine.

The following former Desperado’s employees were sentenced August 7, 2014 for one count of conspiracy to maintain drug involved premises and distribution of controlled substances:

  • Elias “E.J.” White, 53, of Lafayette, was sentenced to 54 months of probation;
  • Heike Slattery, 42, of Carencro, was sentenced to two years of probation;
  • Crystal Sampy, 32, of Lafayette, was sentenced to three years of probation and a $1,000 fine.
  • Lydia “Unique” Gauthreaux, 32, of Crowley, was sentenced to three years of probation and a $1,000 fine.

In total, 10 defendants were convicted of felony racketeering and drug charges, approximately $1.2 million in assets and proceeds were seized and forfeited, and Desperado’s has been closed since December 5, 2012, and will remain so indefinitely. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Louisiana State Police and Lafayette Metro Narcotics investigated the case. Assistant United States Attorneys Myers Namie and Daniel McCoy prosecuted the case.

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