October 21, 2011
Not Horsing Around
The Louisiana Supreme Court has suspended an attorney based on a recent guilty plea in federal court.
Nola.com reports on the situation:
Less than a week before he was scheduled to go to trial in federal court, Sean Alfortish pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to conspiring to rig the elections of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, then helping himself to funds controlled by the agency. Alfortish admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, health care fraud and identification document fraud. Alfortish admitted he created a scheme to get re-elected as the head of the nonprofit in 2008 after his first term as president was marred by charges of financial mismanagement.
Thanks to a raft of falsified ballots, Alfortish won re-election and a slate of his hand-picked candidates were elected to the board, replacing some of those who had questioned Alfortish's leadership. When the election results were challenged, Alfortish "presided over a hearing ... knowing that he had participated and directed others to mail falsified ballots," said a summary of the case signed by Alfortish.
Alfortish also admitted using the association's medical benefits trust fund for personal expenses, doubling the trust's expenditures during his first term as president, from 2005 to 2008. He also admitted settling an employee's sexual harassment grievance for $25,000, then reimbursing himself with the same amount and calling it "back pay" for work that other employees did.
The horsemen's association takes a 6 percent cut of the purses at Louisiana's four racetracks, a percentage that tops $5 million a year. With that money, the association acts as the bookkeeper at tracks, pays out purses after races and provides services to horse owners and trainers, including medical insurance and workers' compensation insurance.
Alfortish now faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice any monetary gains for him or losses he caused for others. He is the last defendant remaining, after the recent plea of Mona Hebert Romero, 53, the group's former executive director. Romero admitted to conspiring to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and fraud in connection with identification documents, court records show.
The suspension is imposed pending consideration of final discipline. (Mike Frisch)
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