Legislative auditor releases scathing report on subjects of Lee Zurik investigations

Legislative auditor releases scathing report on subjects of Lee Zurik investigations

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - The state's legislative auditor releases a scathing report on two Jefferson Parish public officials, both subjects of Lee Zurik investigations. Investigators uncovered what they allege is misuse of public money, as well as violations of both state and federal laws.

It took over a year of legal wrangling, including an appeal from Justice of the Peace Patrick DeJean, but the state legislative auditor was finally able to release this report.

The report finds DeJean allegedly used garnishment payments, collected from debtors, for personal uses like a $900 purchase at a Disney World resort and a $500 debit transaction at Harrah's casino. It also found the justice of the peace allegedly overcharged people who had to pay off debts and in some cases, kept the extra money.

Raphael Goyeneche, the head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, states, "In many respects, he doesn't have anyone to blame for being found out, but himself and thank God for stupidity."

That's because Goyeneche says the legislative auditor only started looking into DeJean after he called the Metropolitan Crime Commission to complain about former constable Tony Thomassie, who worked for DeJean's court.

We first told you about Thomassie back in February of 2014 when Lee Zurik report found he was frequently drinking at West Bank bars during workdays. FOX 8 also reported that Thomassie was selling badges for profit.

The newly released auditor's report found Thomassie controlled an association, in which paying members were appointed deputy constables but that Thomassie allegedly kept some of the association's money for his personal use.

"This is basically a shameless shakedown that Mr. Thomassie created," Goyeneche said.
One more person is named in the report, Danita Turnage, the clerk of court who helped managed the garnishment process. The report finds Turnage allegedly overcharged people paying off debts, collecting over $12,000 for herself. In a handwritten statement, Turnage says she simply followed orders given to her by Patrick DeJean and Tony Thomassie and didn't know she was doing anything wrong.

Neither DeJean nor Thomassie chose to respond to the legislative auditor's report. Last month, DeJean was temporarily disqualified from his position after the judiciary commission of Louisiana said it has evidence DeJean spent thousands of dollars in garnishment payments and public funds on himself.

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