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New Orleans, La. -
Sources close to the St. Tammany Parish coroner's office have told FOX 8 News why the FBI raided the coroner's office last month. But those same sources say the raid did not take place in just one place. Apparently it was a coordinated operation, with a sharp focus.
A receipt could end up being one key part of the government's case against St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan, if the FBI in fact continues to move forward with its investigation.
It's a receipt for a Kohler generator, purchased by the coroner's office in December 2011 and delivered sometime in January 2012. But the generator was not dropped off at the coroner's office. The receipt instructed, "Do not deliver," and to call "J.T. on arrival" - the customer would pick it up. At that time, coroner's office records don't show any J.T. working at the office.
Fast forward to last month, when our camera captured a few shots of FBI agents leaving the coroner's office after a raid. Our sources close to the coroner's office say that visit by federal agents was brief - federal investigators were there to find documents related to the generator.
When we ask FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti what might prompt FBI investigators to conduct such a raid, he tells us, "Usually, they are not satisfied with the previous response to their subpoena duces tecum, or subpoena for other documents. If you don't comply, they go to a judge and say, ‘Judge, we need to go in and get what we believe this person has, and we need you to give us the right to go in and get it."
Here's why the receipt could prove to be important to the FBI.
As we showed you in our Body of Evidence series, the generator purchased by the coroner's office is a marine generator, according to Kohler's website - it's used for boats. Galvan's office doesn't own a boat.
"It looks like they're trying to get their ducks in a row, to make a case against Dr. Galvan, to say he's using public funds for private purchases," says Raspanti.
But there's more. Our sources tell us the FBI also raided two other sites that day. In addition to the coroner's office, our sources say federal investigators also searched a boat owned by Galvan. And on that boat, our sources say, the FBI recovered the marine generator, paid for with public funds. It cost about $8,500.
"It shows they're a little upset about the way you're dealing with them and that you haven't been dealing with them fairly," says Raspanti. "But once they get what they have, it's a new ball game. They have their evidence and they have to make a decision - do they have enough to go forward."
And our sources say the FBI also raided a storage shed or unit believed to be leased or owned by Galvan. And in that unit, the FBI recovered other boating supplies, including flotation devices. Our sources believe those supplies were also purchased with public money and, again, were found in Galvan's private storage unit.
Raspanti says, "We don't know the parameters of the investigation, but based upon the information that you've learned, it appears that they're thinking that some of the money that was supposed to be spent publically, and was alleged to have been spent for public use, was used for Dr. Galvan's private use."
Coroner records show a handful of purchases that appear to be related to boats. One record from 2008 shows Galvan's office made a $1,300 purchase at Bayou Marine Electronics.
The office also spent $300 at Boat Stuff. Yet another invoice shows $1,500 spent on boating supplies from Port Supply.
We don't know if any of this was recovered at the storage unit. But these are more examples of the coroner's office buying boating products.
"What a raid shows you is that they are not going to get it another way, and possibly this thing could go away, their evidence could leave," says Raspanti. So there's a certain exigency to their getting their hands on it."
Raspanti is quick to point out that there may be other aspects to this investigation.
In May, a source told us the FBI could also be looking into payroll records. Our investigation showed Galvan paid himself for unused vacation time, even though Facebook photos showed luxurious vacations to Europe and San Francisco.
A subpoena shows the FBI also has interest in a contract Galvan had with the City of Slidell. FOX 8 News detailed that arrangement, in which where Galvan, acting as a private doctor, served as the physician at the jail. But according to jail records, Galvan never went to the jail to treat sick inmates - instead he sent his chief death investigator, Mark Lombard.
If Galvan didn't pay Lombard for that additional work through his private practice, he could have essentially used a public resource - in this case the employee, Lombard - for his private gain.
Galvan has declined to answer any of our questions these past six months. He's sued the state and parish, refused to hand over records to the legislative auditor, and now, Raspanti says, his actions likely prompted a raid by the FBI.
"Dr. Galvan is using any means that he has to push back against this," notes our analyst. "He certainly has not cooperated with this investigation fully, which we've seen by their raid. He's filed a lawsuit and he's digging in his heels. He does not want to be the ex-coroner of St. Tammany, he wants to stay the status quo, as long as you can."
By the way, the Orleans coroner's office says they don't own a boat and have never purchased boating supplies. They rely on Harbor Police, Wildlife and Fisheries and the NOPD.
In Jefferson Parish, Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich says they also don't own a boat. When we asked if he ever purchased boating supplies, he laughed and said, "Of course not."
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