NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The former head of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control is under federal investigation. Sources tell FOX 8 News that the FBI is looking into whether Troy Hebert used his position to receive sexual favors from a New Orleans woman who had problems with a liquor license. Our story is a joint investigation with Baton Rouge-based reporter Tom Aswell and his website, LouisianaVoice.com.
On September 9, 2015, state documents show, the owner of the Decatur Street restaurant Star Steak and Lobster House appeared before ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert. At that hearing, Hebert ruled there was "sufficient evidence" that showed the restaurant had "failed to pay sales taxes" and didn't have a "proper permit" - its liquor license had expired four months earlier, in May.
Two days after that ruling, though, Hebert issued the restaurant a temporary permit, valid for 35 days. He issued two more, in October and November.
In early January, though - just four days before leaving office - Hebert reversed his initial ruling, dismissing the findings, now writing evidence did not support the claim that the restaurant had failed to pay taxes and had failed to have a permit. But even with that decision, ATC's website shows the restaurant is still delinquent on its renewal.
Sources tell FOX 8 News and the Louisiana Voice that the FBI is investigating whether Hebert received sexual favors in exchange for favorable decisions for the restaurant.
A New Orleans businessman confirmed to FOX 8 News and the Louisiana Voice that the FBI interviewed his girlfriend, who runs Star Steak House. A separate source told the Louisiana Voice that Hebert contacted the restaurant owner after that initial hearing and offered to help.
Our sources have not said whether the FBI considers this an isolated incident, or if they're looking into other claims. But this much is clear: One of Governor Bobby Jindal's former cabinet members is being investigated by federal agents.
Hebert denies wrongdoing. We reached out to the former ATC commissioner for comment on this story, and he sent this response:
Like Paul Harvey use to say, this is "the rest of the story":
Star Steak House in the French Quarter was facing suspension/revocation of their alcohol permit because Ms. [name redacted]'s Middle Eastern manager, who is a convicted felon, was breaking the law and pocketing thousands of state sales tax dollars from the business.
At the ATC hearing, Ms. [redacted] stated that she was committed to keeping her business open legally and her 20 plus employees working. She was advised that she would have to remove her manager from any and all dealings with the business and work out a payment plan with the Department of Revenue (LDR) to pay all taxes owed the state.
She was granted a temporary permit to give her and LDR time to work out a payment plan in which they did. (Attachment A) It is customary to grant several 35 day temp permits rather than permanent ones to ensure that all details have been worked out. Ms. [redacted] was asked on several occasions to finalize the proper paper work to resolve this issue completely, which she did not. At that point and time, no more permits were issued and ATC learned the business had actually closed. Because you cannot collect from a business that no longer exist, the charges were dropped.
At no point and time did I or ATC do anything illegal or unethical and the records and policy clearly reflect that. It is standard procedure to try and allow a business to remain open, if possible, in order for the state to collect the taxes owed as well as save innocent people's jobs. "You can't get blood out of a turnip." To try and suggest otherwise is simply a ploy to discredit me and a great agency for doing our job dealing with those who don't do theirs.
During the course of this time, Ms. [redacted]'s manager, whom I suggested that she fire, began threatening me. Due to the numerous other threats and the torching of my car, I reached out to the FBI for help and protection of my family and I. (Attachment B)
Your sources that say the FBI is investigating me must have their wires crossed. Why would the FBI investigate me for doing my job and was threatened for doing so? Common sense says that if there is an investigation, it is about the people who threatened my life and family for fighting for the good law abiding taxpayers of our state.
I love my wife and children with all my heart and would never do anything to jeopardize that or put them in harms way.
Inclosing, I ask that you show these facts to the the management of your station before you decide to run this story. As a respected public servant for 25 years and now a private citizen, any malice, defamation, suggestions or slander from your reporting against my character that will cause irreparable harm to me personally, professionally or politically will be dealt with in the court of law. I do not mean to come across disrespectful, but sometimes you cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube.
Tom Aswell's own report on the case is available at LouisianaVoice.com.