Private Investigator Indicted for Offering Bribes in Exchange for Favorable OWI Case Resolution
|U.S. Attorney’s Office February 28, 2013|
LAFAYETTE, LA—United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that a federal grand jury indicted private investigator Robert Williamson, 64, of Lafayette, on one count of conspiracy, six counts of bribery for operating a pay-for-plea scheme that garnered favorable treatment for defendants charged with state violations of operating while intoxicated (OWI), and one count of Social Security fraud for claiming Social Security payments while not reporting income from the bribery scheme. Additionally, Williamson was charged with one count of making false statements to a federal agent.
According to the indictment, Williamson, who is not licensed to practice law, was part of a conspiracy from March 2008 to February 2012 to solicit thousands of dollars from individuals with pending criminal charges in the 15th Judicial District by promising favorable resolutions to their pending felony and misdemeanor cases, the majority of which were OWI cases. The favorable resolution of OWI cases included having the cases placed in “immediate 894 sessions.”
The Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 894 provides a procedure by which a person can initially plead guilty to a crime with the understanding that the conviction will be set aside if the person successfully completes certain requirements imposed during a probationary period, including community service.
The indictment states that Williamson paid bribes in cash and other things of value to personnel within the District Attorney’s office and employees with other organizations associated with the OWI program, including Acadiana Outreach.
Williamson is also alleged to have obtained false and fraudulent certifications from Acadiana Outreach, which certified that his clients completed court-ordered community service, when in fact the individuals had not. The indictment outlines that Williamson would obtain fraudulent driver safety training certificates showing that Williamson’s “clients” completed court-mandated driver improvement programs when they had not. Williamson would then take these certificates and provide them to District Attorney’s office staff members who would file them in the court record during the clients’ “immediate 894 session.”
If convicted, Williamson faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, with up to three years of supervised release for the conspiracy count. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, with three years of supervised release for each count of bribery; five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, with three years of supervised release for the Social Security Fraud count; and five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, with three years of supervised release for the false statements to a federal agent count. A trial will be scheduled at a later date.
“This case should serve as a reminder that private citizen facilitators who participate in corruption conspiracies will be held as accountable as public officials,” said Mike Anderson, Special Agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New Orleans Division.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Luke Walker and Richard Willis are prosecuting the case.