A federal grand jury Wednesday indicted a former Carencro police officer on charges of extortion and lying to federal officers in a corruption investigation that centered on the now shuttered Desperado’s Gentlemen’s Cabaret.
Timmy Prejean, 42, of Carencro, was 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. Attorney Stephanie 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.
Prejean allegedly received cash 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.
Finley said Prejean also used a police computer to run a criminal background check for James Panos on March 16, 2012, a violation of federal law. He then lied to FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency investigators about logging into the federal criminal database for Panos, Finley said.
Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout said Prejean is no longer employed by the department.
“Pursuant to department policy, when I learned that these charges were imminent, I met with Prejean and accepted his immediate termination,” Stout said in prepared statement.
Stout said late Wednesday that he would not agree to an interview. Neither Stout nor Finley stated exactly when Prejean resigned, or how long he had been a police officer.
“The alleged illegal activity of Prejean took place in connection with his work as off-duty security in the parking lot of a local club, and not in connection with his official duties as a police officer,” according to Stout’s statement. “… Even though Prejean is remorseful for his actions, he still has to be held accountable for his actions and accept whatever sentence is handed down to him by the courts.”
If convicted, Prejean faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the extortion charge, 10 years on the computer charge and five years on each of the false statement charges, Finley said.
James and Jennifer Panos were sentenced to federal prison terms after they pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges last year. Also sentenced was Baton Rouge businessman Dipak Vora, a retired chemical engineer who owned the Desperado’s building. Employees at the club also pleaded guilty in the investigation and received suspended jail terms.
Charges against one or more Carencro police officers had been expected. A March 2013 superseding indictment that charged some of the defendants also contained a paragraph that alleged James and Jennifer Panos “made special arrangements with some local police officers” that allowed prostitution and drug distribution to go on unimpeded for years at Desperado’s.
Following the 2013 indictment, Stout said he was unaware of anyone in the department committing crimes connected to Desperado’s.
On Wednesday, Stout said he and the entire department were “saddened and disappointed” by Prejean’s alleged actions.
“While the conduct committed by this officer tarnishes the badge that he once wore, I want to assure the public and the residents of Carencro that the 32 full-time and five part-time officers of the Carencro Police Department who currently serve this city with distinction and dedication are hardworking professionals,” Stout said.