Randy Zinna

In this Advocate file photo from 2008, former MPERS attorney Randy Zinna answered questions in the Louisiana Legislature in about SB 99, which was meant to affect the transfers of employee contributions to retirement systems. Zinna plead guilty in 2011 to defrauding two public pension funds, an 83-year-old widow and others of more than $1.5 million.

Suspended Baton Rouge lawyer Randy P. Zinna has admitted that he defrauded two public pension funds, an 83-year-old widow and others of more than $1.5 million total, U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. announced Wednesday.

“His efforts to cover up his crime by stealing from another client, an elderly widow, make his actions all the more reprehensible,” Cazayoux said.

Court records show that Zinna, 53, was charged with mail fraud in a sealed, or secret, bill of information July 2.

A guilty plea was entered in October before Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph E. Tyson, Cazayoux said.

Tyson has not yet entered a sentencing date in Zinna’s court record. The conviction carries a possible penalty of 20 years in prison and fines of more than $2 million.

Zinna signed an admission in which he said some of the misappropriated funds were “used to pay for his own sports gambling debts.”

And Zinna pledged to Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Patricia Jones that he would cooperate with investigators “and at any grand jury proceeding or trial.”

Zinna agreed to pay full restitution of $434,164 to the Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System of Louisiana, or MPERS, and $340,392 to the East Baton Rouge City-Parish Employees’ Retirement System or CPERS.

The lawyer had served for years as counsel to both MPERS and CPERS.

MPERS placed Zinna on unpaid leave in late 2009. CPERS also jettisoned the lawyer and sued him last year for the $340,392 mentioned in his federal plea agreement.

Zinna promised in that plea agreement to pay the widow, identified only as “M.M.,” $546,351.

Another $136,614 is owed by Zinna to Olde Oaks Development LLC in Bossier City, the plea agreement shows. And more than $116,000 must be split among an equipment company and two electric utility services, the plea agreement shows.

Olde Oaks Development is a real estate development that Zinna once managed, Cazayoux said.

“I have cooperated in this matter to the best of my ability, and I will continue to do so,” Zinna said Wednesday.

Zinna’s law license was suspended by the Louisiana Supreme Court as a result of the investigation by the FBI, state Office of Inspector General, and state Attorney General’s Office.

His charge states that he schemed from November 2004 through October 2009 to defraud MPERS and the other victims.

Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street said in a written statement that Zinna’s scheme resulted in “the brazen theft of more than $1.5 million.”

Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​