I am a man who likes to kill multiple birds with one stone so after Slabbed’s researcher and I left Muni court last month we headed over to Lafayette Square to see what was shaking on skid row. As per usual we were not disappointed as we immediately saw the Wino.
“Hey kid, my lady friend wants to have a few words with you.” said the Wino. “I think you’ll like her.” She looked like she hadn’t eaten in days so we went to a local restaurant known for having good turtle soup. Her name was Betty.
“No offense bubba but your work on Byron Lee bites.” she began. “You always talk about following the money but I’ve been waiting for you to do that for months with Byron Lee.” I protested that my work load was amazingly heavy but to no avail as she was having none of it.
“Lee is part of a crime family son, one that is pretty easy to find.” Knowing time was scarce that evening she handed me a dossier on Lee. “Don’t fuck it up!”, she exclaimed, ” I traded a case of mad dog for this.” With that she disappeared into the chilly evening.
The dossier was exhaustive to be certain but it left me with an empty feeling too. Exposing business relationships is great but I wasn’t left with a warm fuzzy feeling either. So I took the research and began googling along with our researcher. “Look, the bum has done all our work”, Mr Researcher said. “I don’t know that I can find anything else.”
So I mulled over the document, trying to figure out why I couldn’t take the gift from above and run with it. The reason was an address the document contained that I remembered from the past but just couldn’t place it: 1500 Lafayette Street in Gretna. I pulled it up on google maps and even looked at the street level view. Still nothing clicked. There was one company listed there that had drawn my interest in Le Nouveau Construction as it was mentioned in the dossier but I knew I had seen that addy before. One search lead to another and then bang it clicked: State Representative Girod Jackson, the guy who got some post Katrina no bid contracts lists that exact address for his company, Diversified Ventures LLC. That in turn broke the search engine log jam as I also connected an engineer and his business Crescent Engineering Group LLC, Michael Parker Sr to suite 146, which I’m told is part of suite 144 as well as Byron Lee’s conprofit, The Jefferson Sports and Scholastic Foundation which lists Suite 121 as their address of record with the Secretary of State. I had a member of the Slabbed Nation check the building directory at the office complex at 1500 Lafayette and none of those businesses were listed as tenants. So it was with this list of names I set off a-googling.
My next stop was 2273 Barataria Boulevard, Suite 7 in Marrero because that is where Eric T Thompson’s venture, Debris Management LLC was located per the LA Secretary of State’s office. Betty’s dossier came in handy here because despite the fact we connected Lee’s conprofit to the gang at 1500 Lafayette Street, City Search shows 2273 Barataria Boulevard, Suite 7 in Marrero as home to the Jefferson Sports and Scholastic Foundation!
So I then began to search diligently for further connections between this Thompson guy and Lee and sure enough we needed to travel over to the vicinity of West Jefferson Medical Center, 4520 Wichers Drive to flesh out some further connections and this lead me to Hometown Investment Group LLC, which is domiciled at 4520 Wichers Drive, Suite 205 which has Lee and Thompson as members. Searching that address revealed it is the current location of Southern Pain Relief LLC, which evidently opened there in February of this past year.
So who owns 4520 Wichers? Hometown Investment Group that’s who, at least according to the Jefferson Parish Tax Assessor, which has the property assessed at 2210 and shows an outstanding property tax balance of a whopping $237.64. (It is parcel number 0420003794 for those so interested)
Now I’m not a real estate expert, especially on the West Bank but I did remember Steve Theriot engaged in a bit of double dealing back in the day when he sat on the WJMC Board of Trustees selling land he owned close by to the hospital to the hospital. Paul Rioux gave us the sknny on those deals earlier this year:
In January 2000, Theriot and his wife, Gwendolyn, sold a quarter-acre lot on Avenue C with a 3,600-square-foot office building to the West Jefferson Service Corporation for $244,000, according to conveyance records.
Now this is quite a coincidence and since a picture is worth 1,000 words lets place the possible location of Theriot’s old property in relation to 4520 Wichers Dr, which is the building on the left:
Is it me or is Byron and his business partner getting a great deal from the Tax Assessor? We better see how much Theriot got for his undeveloped lot as we continue with Rioux’s story:
The couple also sold a 54-by-120-foot vacant lot at the corner of Wichers Drive and Avenue B to the hospital’s nonprofit corporation for $55,300.
It was then I remembered that Lee was connected earlier this year to a conprofit that had major financial and accounting problems in the Jefferson Community Health Care Centers, which did business with West Jefferson Medical Center. Being a curious soul I ordered up the Secretary of State information page on it and lo and behold listed as an officer of that conprofit was Michael Parker, one of Lee’s cronies from 1500 Lafayette Street as we visit with paul Rioux’s reporting on that scandal:
The 20-page audit also found that Carol Smith, the clinic’s chief executive officer, received $48,000 in interest-free loans and failed to fully reimburse the clinic for thousands of dollars in personal purchases, including flowers for relatives.
From 2004 to 2009, the clinic spent $73,000 on food and drink for office parties and board meetings, including $29,000 for Christmas parties and other celebrations with alcohol, the audit said.
The report also highlighted a $9,600 Wal-Mart purchase labeled “toy give away” paid for with funds from the “community outreach” account. Auditors concluded the money was actually spent on gift cards for employees based on a purchase order and interviews with employees……
Nancy Cassagne, the West Jefferson’s chief executive officer, said she reacted with “absolute disappointment” to the audit’s findings.
“West Jefferson entered into this arrangement with the best intentions of serving the neediest people in our community,” she said. “We find it appalling that those funds appear to have not been used for that purpose.”
She said the hospital stopped subsidizing the walk-in clinics at the end of 2009.
Of course this corresponded to the time the feds began poking around West Jefferson with subpoenas. I would submit Cassange, sister in law to disgraced former Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson and the unqualified political hack in charge at West Jeff knew exactly what was going on in the non profits they did business with:
Lee, whose political supporters formed the nonprofit clinic a month after he took office in January 2004, linked the accounting problems to “growing pains” experienced by many fledgling organizations.
“It’s unfortunate that this may overshadow all the good that has been done, but I know the board has already addressed many of these issues,” he said.
From 2004 to 2008, the Parish Council approved resolutions sponsored by Lee to contribute a total of $2.9 million to the clinics.
East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie has paid the clinic $1.7 million since 2007, but those expenditures were not scrutinized by the audit…….
Smith, the clinic’s CEO, is the sister of Pam Watson, Lee’s former Parish Council aide who got a $175,000 job with West Jefferson Medical Center in 2008 as vice president of support services. The job description was changed to eliminate supervision of the clinics to avoid a conflict of interest.
Smith’s salary was listed as $185,000 in a 2007 document filed with the IRS, the most recent filing available.
I imagine the change in the job description eliminated all oversight of the clinics, especially those connected to Lee and Smith, who have a long-standing business relationship.
So, let’s stop and quickly review the business dealings between Byron Lee and Eric T Thompson:
Thompson and Lee own:
- Hometown Investment Group LLC 4520 Wichers Drive, Ste. 205, Marrero, LA 70072
- Cablecom Management Group LLC (same address) Michael Parker is also listed as a member here.
- HEB Contractors and Developers (same address)
- Progressive Developers & Contractors (owned through Hometown Investment Group)
- 1-Source Contractors LLC (owned by Le Noveau Construction (Thompson’s company) and The Maxima Group (Lee’s company))
- Cableventures LLC (owned by IGH Trucking (Thompson) and Maxima Group (Lee))
And this brings us to back to Thompson’s Debris Management LLC, which evidently shared a common address with Lee’s conprofit, the Jefferson Scholastic and Sports Foundation on Barataria Boulevard. According to Betty the Bum, it was formed in early 2006 to capitalize on the coming River Birch Bonanza. Before she left us that fateful evening she pulled me close and said:
Look at the River Birch deal closely and see who Richard’s Disposal and Metro Disposal used as a consultant or contractor. Was it Debris Management LLC? Byron Lee almost killed the River Birch deal unless Richard’s Disposal & Metro Disposal were used and they did get a piece of River Birch deal.
This statement was the only tantalizing detail I could not directly confirm though I found lots of smoke in the recent reporting on Richard’s and Metro’s vis a vie the NOLA trash hauling negotiations and the old Rich Rainey reporting on the last garbage pickup contract in Jefferson Parish, which went to Richard’s and Coastal Waste.
I’ll add in researching this story I’ve found that Byron Lee is far from a prototypical businessman of the variety that I deal with in my accounting practice. The trail of dead bodies that are Lee’s former business ventures is impressive and his business associations tell me he probably never made an honest dollar in his career. The closest thing in my professional experience is a guy that had a knack for getting CDBG grants when Ray Mabus was in office here in Mississippi who made big time money as a grant administrator but also had the IRS after him for hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. The grant programs he ran were inevitably a disaster, such fact I know first hand from auditing them. His ability to excel in that business line ended with the election of Kirk Fordice, who most likely had his own list of cronies to which he steered such government largess.
Folks I’ve thrown out enough names that I know the Slabbed Nation should be able to fill in lots of the blanks. Please fire away in comments.