Former Carencro police Sgt. Timothy Prejean was sentenced Monday to 18 months in federal prison for accepting cash from a strip club owner who handed Prejean $100 bills to ignore the prostitution and illegal drug sales at Desperado’s Gentlemen’s Cabaret.
U.S. District Judge Richard Haik also ordered Prejean to undergo three years of court supervision once he’s released from prison. Haik told Prejean to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons by Sept. 21.
Prejean was the Carencro Police Department’s lone detective who was in charge of issuing exotic dance permits to the girls at Desperado’s, where off-duty Carencro officers provided security outside the club. Prejean admitted to taking about $10,000 from James Panos, one of the club’s owners, over the years.
“With a family to support, and not making a whole lot of money (as a police officer), it helped pay the bills,” Prejean told Haik. “It put food on my table.”
Prejean, 42, and his attorney, David Cook, asked Haik for probation. Cook said Prejean took the money, but he never asked for it.
The 17-year law veteran at times Monday was ambiguous about his guilt: He admitted accepting money from Panos or another Desperado’s employee, then denied knowing why Panos would hand him one to two $100 bills a night.
“You think they’re just giving that to you because you’re a nice guy?” Haik said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Myers Namie, who prosecuted the case, said Prejean not knowing about the prostitution and drug sales was hard to believe.
“Desperado’s was a full-fledged brothel,” Namie said. “Mr. Prejean wasn’t naive.”
Five people, including Prejean and Panos, have been sentenced to prison terms in the Desperado’s drug and prostitution investigation — Panos’ wife, Jennifer; Baton Rouge businessman Dipak Vora, who owned the Desperado’s building and collected bags of cash each week; and club patron Gerald Cormier, who distributed cocaine at the club. Six employees at the club, including some of the dancer-prostitutes, received suspended sentences and are not serving prison time.
Local, state and federal agents raided the club on the afternoon of Dec. 5, 2012, finding in the VIP room a paid-for sex act in progress. After the raid, the club was closed for good; the property has since been forfeited to the U.S. government.
A grand jury charged Prejean on Feb. 11 with one count of interference with commerce by extortion, one count of obtaining information from a government computer for an illegal purpose, and two counts of making false statements to investigators. Prejean resigned his position after he was charged. In March, he pleaded guilty to one of the four charges — extortion.
Prejean on Monday started to apologize to Haik for his role in the crime. Haik shut him off.
“Don’t apologize to me. It’s your family you need to apologize to,” Haik said.
In the court gallery, members of Prejean’s family wiped their eyes and looked on, including Prejean’s wife, who is expecting the couple’s third child. Prejean has worked at a Home Depot store in the months since he resigned.