A former longtime Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Clerk’s Office employee pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to her role in an illegal bail-bonding scheme that has implicated nearly a dozen people, including former bondsman Rufus Johnson.
Patricia Tate, a deputy clerk who resigned in August, faces up to five years behind bars after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit “honest services” mail fraud. She will be sentenced March 11 by U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan.
Tate, 50, of New Orleans, admitted soliciting and accepting cash — between $350 and $500 over a three-year period — in exchange for helping Johnson continue to conduct business even though he no longer had a bail-bonding license. Her assistance went beyond her normal work duties, court documents show, including running lists of criminal defendants for Johnson and obtaining information on arrest statuses and warrants.
“This information was valuable to commercial bail bondsmen who were seeking to post bail bonds for inmates and to address bond forfeitures,” prosecutors said in court documents.
Tate delivered bail bonds to Johnson at his Broad Street office “that had been typed and signed by a bond clerk without having been signed” by a bondsman, according to court documents. This circumvented requirements intended to prevent unlicensed bondsmen from committing fraud.
Tate also would bring Johnson copies of court records without charging the fees otherwise assessed by the Clerk’s Office, according to prosecutors.
Tate is among 11 people accused in an illegal bail-bonding scheme dating back to 2003 that funneled kickbacks to deputy clerks.
Several defendants already have pleaded guilty, including Gilishia Garrison, who worked for Court Clerk Arthur Morrell and Sheriff Marlin Gusman when she took bribes to access court computers and forge recognizance bonds — allegedly at the request of Johnson, former bondsman Perry Becnel and others.
A grand jury on Oct. 31 indicted Becnel along with Johnson, his son James Johnson and a former employee of Johnson’s business, Josephine Spellman, in a 10-count conspiracy. Johnson, who once held a bondsman’s license, has run for public office several times in New Orleans.
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