It has been close to a month since Mark Titus stopped in with us to tell his side of things in USA v Titus and since then he has reported to prison at the Oakdale Federal Correctional Complex, likely at the Detention Center facility there. I mention this because Mark and I continued communicating, albeit off the record, until the day he reported to prison last week to pay his debt to society. Since I have a small bit of experience seeing the impacts of incarceration first hand I’m not naturally disposed to throw rotten tomatoes at anyone headed to the pokey, especially on a 5 year sentence when such is considered in light of the extremely lenient plea deals cut by Tim Whitmer and Tom Wilkinson, both integral players in the landfill monopoly scheme at the heart of the Jefferson Parish corruption scandal.
For those of you that are new a bit of history is in order. In September 2010, armed with search warrants, the FBI raided the corporate headquarters of the River Birch Landfill. Slabbed followed along with the related litigation in what I consider some of my former partner in blog Nowdy’s finest work on Jefferson Parish corruption. Among the documents nabbed included “evidence of other crimes”. One of those other crimes was a scheme to defraud construction company Garner Services of one million dollars. The two named conspirators in this scheme are Titus and his brother-in-law Dominick “Big D” Fazzio, who also happens to be the Chief Financial Officer of the Landfill. That business association has been the bane of Titus’ existence ever since and lacking the means to fight a strong government case against him Titus cut a plea deal and wore a wire on his brother-in-law. The transcripts of those conversations leads one to the natural conclusion Titus thought his brother-in-law was in the mafia.
Fazzio has vigorously defended himself against those charges, and in a bad twist for Titus, Assistant US Attorney Sal Perricone was outed by Fred Heebe for posting comments about the case on NOLA.com and Jim Letten’s office was recused from the cases tainted by Perricone’s online activities including the case and plea deal with Titus. The events since have their roots in the Perricone debacle.
I mention this because the new team of Federal Prosecutors from the Public Integrity Division of Department of Justice out of Washington DC are reputed to be completely ruthless and they are enforcing Titus’ plea deal to the letter of the agreement, which evidently did not include the side assurances Titus said he received from Perricone on the forfeiture of the ill-gotten gains. After examining the evidence presented to this point and after considering the observations of certain well placed observers, it is my belief Titus did indeed have a sidecar with Perricone on the forfeiture issue. This snippet from Manuel Torres story on the hearing held last week in the Fazzio case alludes to the fact that Judge Ginger is thinking along those same lines:
In her two-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan said some evidence at a hearing Wednesday alleging misconduct in U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office “was credible and therefore disturbing.”
The stinging phrase referred to part of an affidavit by Tim Wilson Sr., a Houston private investigator who took the stand Wednesday. Wilson’s main assertion was that former prosecutor Sal Perricone and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Mann expressed in 2011 an undisclosed verbal understanding that the government wouldn’t seize defendant Mark Titus’ properties.
Titus, who was cooperating against Fazzio at the time, is due to begin a five-year prison sentence Friday.
Prosecutors have denied that there was any secret agreement with Titus. And Berrigan’s order Thursday said other parts of Wilson’s affidavit “were simply not credible.” She didn’t indicate which parts she found credible.
IMHO she found the verbal sidecar to be the credible portion of the affidavit for reasons I can not disclose.
At the end of the day the justice system is many things and to those caught within a conspiracy, “fair” is not one of those many things. Had it not been for Titus’ relationship with Big D, I imagine the government would not have been so keen to prosecute an owner looting out his business and that is what happened. Worth noting is Garner Services owner and previously in the clear Ed Garner, is now in the government’s cross hairs.
For Fazzio, his brother-in-law is the gift that keeps giving as evidence of the side agreement with Titus will certainly be employed by the defense in USA v Fazzio in the upcoming trial, slated to begin next month. It is unclear whether the Titus plea deal precludes any new charges against him but as things stand now, Team Fazzio will be joined at the defense table by his brother-in-law, who will remain in custody for the duration. In this case, a bit player in the larger drama is the only one crushed thus far.