Zurik: Former tourism official pleads guilty to theft, pays restitution

Toni Rice resigned and was arrested after a FOX 8 Investigation into suspicious spending at the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network

Zurik: Former tourism official pleads guilty to theft, pays restitution

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The former leader of a New Orleans tourism non-profit entered a guilty plea and repaid tens of thousands of dollars stolen from the group she used to lead.

Tonnette ‘Toni’ Rice repaid $70,682 to the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network, a non-profit where she used to serve as the former president. A FOX 8 Lee Zurik Investigation uncovered Rice stole more than $70,000 from the organization. The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office announced the agreement on Tuesday. As a part of the agreement, Rice also paid an additional $10,000 to NOMTN as penalty compensation.

The district attorney’s office also announced a computer fraud charge against Rice was dismissed and a felony theft charge was lessened to a misdemeanor. Rice was sentenced to six months probation.

A FOX 8 investigation found Rice made credit card charges on trips and food, with no explanation of why taxpayers needed to foot the bill. In July 2014, records obtained by FOX 8 show Rice traveled to Miami for the International Multicultural Conference and used the NOMTN credit card four times at the pool bar. Records showed she also made a purchase at the hotel’s main bar and rented two pool lounge chairs.

Before the Miami conference, records show she made two charges at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Orlando. Records showed she also charged $511 to “IOA ADMI” which is likely associated with Universal Studios. Receipts indicated Rice made the trip with one other adult and a ten-year-old child.

A report by an auditor found similar findings that Rice committed fraud and in May 2018 Rice turned herself in on theft, public records charges.

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