Subject of Lee Zurik investigation runs from FOX 8 cameras - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Subject of Lee Zurik investigation runs from FOX 8 cameras

Earlier this year, the state's legislative auditor released a review of Alternatives Living, finding that the senior officer used $133,000 of public funds for personal purposes. (FOX 8 Photo) Earlier this year, the state's legislative auditor released a review of Alternatives Living, finding that the senior officer used $133,000 of public funds for personal purposes. (FOX 8 Photo)
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

The subject of a Lee Zurik "Living Large" investigation runs out of federal court to avoid our cameras after going before a judge. The owners of Alternatives Living filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week after our stories detailed lavish spending while the non-profit owed the IRS over $1 million.

Rickey Roberson did his best to avoid being filmed leaving federal court Wednesday. Neither Roberson; his wife, Alternatives Living director Ada Craige-Roberson; nor her mother, the nonprofit's executive director Melanie Duplechain would comment after a judge chastised the trio's attorney during a bankruptcy hearing.

Leo Congeni wanted Judge Elizabeth Magner to allow the three to continue collecting their salaries, while they go through Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Together, they make about $300,000 a year at the non-profit that claims to take care of the homeless and disabled. But the judge says she wasn't shown any documentation detailing why they make so much, and she needed more information in order to justify it.

"They can work, I'm just not paying them,” Magner said.

Congeni responded: "Judge, I think this business is viable. I'm very concerned if these people don't get paid."

Raising her voice, the judge insisted that they show her a schedule and budget - something to account for the money.

We first told you about Alternatives Living last November when we uncovered that the non-profit owed the IRS $1.3 million. At the same time, its officers spent tens of thousands of dollars on pricey meals, cars and trips - all out of the nonprofit's bank account.

"When it comes down to personal charges on the credit card, at our agency we are always working. Basically we are on call 24/7,” Rickey Roberson said last year.

Earlier this year, the state's legislative auditor released a review of Alternatives Living, finding that the senior officer used $133,000 of public funds for personal purposes. It also found another $247,000 in spending was labeled as questionable and lacked supporting documentation. The audit is now in the hands of the U.S. attorney and the Orleans Parish district attorney.

The Robersons say their son, Rickey Roberson Jr., also works for them over 40 hours a week, despite being in school full time. They asked Judge Magner Wednesday to sign off on his $13-an-hour salary. She did so, but only after questioning his role in the non-profit, given his schedule as a college student saying, "It concerns me."

Magner ordered the attorneys to provide her with something verifying that he actually works for Alternatives Living. 

Also on Wednesday, Judge Magner authorized payroll checks for the employees of Alternatives Living.

Rickey Roberson, his wife and mother-in-law, will be back in court trying to get their salaries once their attorney files the paperwork the judge is demanding.

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