A former Carencro police officer pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday to charges of extortion and lying to federal officers in a corruption investigation into the now-shuttered Desperado’s Gentlemen’s Cabaret.
An April 20 trial date was set for Timothy “Timmy” Prejean, 42, who’s charged with one count of interference with commerce by extortion, one count of obtaining information from a government computer and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators.
U.S. District Judge Richard Haik will preside over the case.
Prejean and his appointed attorney, David Cook, appeared Monday morning before Magistrate Judge C. Michael Hill for Prejean’s first appearance in federal court since a grand jury indicted him in February.
Hill set the terms of Prejean’s release on his own recognizance while he awaits court, which include removing all firearms from his home and a ban on interstate travel without permission.
Prejean allegedly received regular cash payments — along with money for personal expenses and a vacation — from Desperado’s owners James and Jennifer Panos, from Jan. 1, 2007, to Dec. 5, 2012, the day local, state and federal law enforcement raided the strip club after a lengthy undercover investigation, U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said.
Prejean also used a police computer in violation of federal law to run a criminal background check for James Panos, 56, then lied to FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency investigators about logging into the federal criminal database for Panos, Finley said.
Prejean’s duties as a Carencro officer included issuing city licenses for exotic dancers within city limits, and he visited the strip club regularly, according to the indictment charging the former officer.
Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout said Prejean resigned from the department once the “charges were imminent,” but he did not specify when that happened or how long he had been a Carencro police officer.
Prejean faces up to 20 years in prison on the extortion charge and up to five years each on the other counts, Hill said.
James Panos and his wife, 48-year-old Jennifer Panos, both of Broussard, were sentenced in November to 72 months and 48 months in prison, respectively, on one count each of racketeering conspiracy in the probe into drug trafficking and prostitution at their business.
Co-owner Dipak Vora, 70, of Baton Rouge, was sentenced in August to 10 months in prison for one count of interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering, while 44-year-old Gerald Cormier, of Carencro, was sentenced to 29 months on a cocaine distribution conviction.
Six other employees were convicted of felony racketeering and drug charges and received suspended jail sentences.
The federal government seized about $1.2 million in assets and forfeitures since the business was raided, Finley said. It’s remained closed since.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825