Lee Zurik Investigation: Where in the world is Tony Thomassie?

Constable Tony Thomassie would not answer our questions when we caught up with him at a Harvey bar in the middle of the workday.
Constable Tony Thomassie would not answer our questions when we caught up with him at a Harvey bar in the middle of the workday.

HARVEY, LA (WVUE) - Undercover video shows a West Bank elected official drinking, instead of doing his job.

The video angers West Bank resident Paul Doucet. He's been trying to get money from his neighbor to pay a bill for his injured cat. The neighbor's dog got in his yard and put his cat in the hospital.

"The guy agreed to pay the vet the money," Doucet tells us.

But Doucet says the neighbor backed out of the $400 bill. He says, "The guy took off" after Doucet handed him the bill.

So in December, Doucet went to Jefferson Parish's Second Justice Court to file suit.

"Came here on December the 11th to file for the court date," Doucet recalls, "and they never served these guys."

The parish's justice of the peace processed the suit, and on January 17 he handed over the paper to the Second Court constable, Antoine J. "Tony" Thomassie, the elected official drinking in our undercover video.

The justice of the peace wrote that Thomassie had three days to serve Doucet's neighbor with the papers. As of last Friday, 35 days later, Thomassie still had not served the papers.

"I want my money," Doucet says. "I am mad because they haven't served him yet."

Doucet paid the court to serve his papers more than two months later ,and he's still waiting on the constable.

"He's not doing his job and they need to get rid of him," Doucet insists. "They need to get someone that can do the work."

While Doucet has been waiting, we've tracked Thomassie at a Harvey bar called the Double Deuce.

Thomassie is a constable for part of the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. His job is to serve court papers, and he makes almost $100,000 a year doing it.

But we've found his truck not on the road, serving papers, but outside the bar, at least a dozen times during the workday.

On February 6, we went inside with an undercover camera. We showed up at 4:30 p.m. - the constable was already there, drinking a Bloody Mary. When we left at 5:15 p.m., he was still at the bar.

But according to a court filing, the constable claimed he tried to serve someone papers at 5:17 p.m. on that day. He got paid for it too, even though our camera caught him drinking at the bar.

Justice of the Peace Patrick DeJean apparently has issues too.  Earlier this month, he wrote Thomassie a letter, saying that "several people have come to the court complaining about services… this type of work ethic is unacceptable to the court and to the public that are paying for services."

We went undercover inside the bar again, on February 10. At 1:15 in the afternoon, Thomassie had a drink and remained there at 2 p.m., when we left. We also spotted his car at the Double Deuce during workdays in November, December and January.

We went back to the Double Deuce last Thursday morning.  When we arrived, we saw the left rear door on Thomassie's vehicle was left open; he was inside the bar. Just after 11 in the morning, we found him with a beer in front of him.

This story is not just about an elected official drinking during the workday. He also sells badges.

"Just to show identification, that we're a member of Tony's constable association," explains one association member as he shows us his deputy constable badge.

Thomassie has an association of deputy constables. They get a badge and they pay him a monthly fee of $20, according to the man we spoke with outside an association meeting in February.

These deputy constables show up once a month to a local bar. They pay the money and have a meeting.

When we asked the man what being a deputy constable actually means, he simply told us, "Just really that we come out here and we support Tony."

FOX 8 News obtained a letter that Thomassie wrote to one deputy constable whose "fee" was "currently due". Thomassie wrote, "Failure to pay this fee to me immediately will result in forfeiture of your commission and your badge… failure to return the badge to me will result in charging you with impersonating a law enforcement officer."

The Metropolitan Crime Commission has been looking at Thomassie for years, especially at the group of at least 40 deputy constables who pay money for their badges.

"Those people that are receiving badges aren't receiving any type of post-certification," says MCC head Rafael Goyeneche. "They don't even work for him in his office."

Can someone really sell badges in such a way? Goyeneche told us, "Yes, you can. Is it legal to do it? No."

But Tony Thomassie continues to sell those badges and he's been doing it for a while. We have obtained a list of 47 deputy constables from 2002.

"Basically what he's done, if the allegations are true, is that he's selling 'get out of jail free' badges to people," says Goyeneche.

The justice of the peace says these deputies do no work at all for the office.

"Why is it that that individual was provided a badge?" wonders Goyeneche. "Why does he have to pay a fee to maintain that badge?. What type of training is the constable providing to command a fee like that? Are these individuals ever doing any work for the constable's office?"

We don't know the answer to any of those questions, so we went to the last monthly deputy constable meeting at a bar called Barataria Live.

We found Thomassie sitting at the bar, and we introduced ourselves. "We're hoping to get a couple of questions with you," we explained.

"I'll talk to you tomorrow, if you like," he responded. "Why don't you give me a call, and I'll be more than happy to."

We called Thomassie the next day and left a message - he never called us back. So we went to the Double Deuce to get some answers.

We walked up to his seat at the bar, shook his hand and mentioned that he had never called us back.

"No, I didn't," he said. "I'm not going to talk with you. I have nothing to tell you."

When we reminded him that he'd agreed to talk, he said, "I don't think I said that."

Remember, we have video of Thomassie, telling us he'd be "more than happy" to talk with us.

Thomassie would not say anything else during our encounter at the Double Deuce. We told him we had found times in the record when he claimed to be serving people papers, but was actually at the Double Deuce. He declined comment.

We asked him to tell us about the deputy constables association. He remained silent.

We said we didn't understand why he would tell us he would do an interview, and then deny ever agreeing to it. Again, nothing from the constable.

We asked him if he thought it was appropriate to be drinking during the workday. He sat quietly, arms folded, refusing all questions.

Finally we reminded Thomassie that he is an elected official who inevitably must answer to the public, and we left.

Paul Doucet wants some answers, too. "It cost me 140 dollars over here to get this guy served." Doucet says.

He paid Thomassie money, and he has been waiting for two months for him to get to work.

According to state law, all deputy constables must take an oath, receive a commission and have that commission on file with the Louisiana secretary of state. But the secretary's office has no deputy constables on file from Thomassie's office.

In addition to receiving money for serving court papers, Thomassie also receives a monthly lump sum payment from the parish. On January 27, we requested his payment information from the parish president's office. More than four weeks later, they have not given us that information.