A local bondswoman pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to her role in a sprawling illegal bail-bonding scheme.

Janet Smith, 44, of New Orleans, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. She faces up to five years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced March 5 by U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo.

Smith, who became a licensed bondswoman in 1996, admitted allowing her name, license and contracts with insurance companies to be used in an illegal bail-bonding business located on South Broad Street. She let an unlicensed bondsman use her name on official bond documents in transactions between 2009 and 2011, according to court records.

That bondsman is identified only as “Bail Bondsman A” in court records, an apparent reference to Rufus Johnson, the former bondsman at the center of the federal investigation.

Smith is among 11 people charged in a scheme dating back to 2003 that allegedly funneled kickbacks to deputy clerks who allowed Johnson’s company to continue doing business with the court despite not having a license to operate.

Her guilty plea came a day after Patricia Tate, a longtime former employee in the Orleans Parish Criminal District Clerk’s Office, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit “honest services” mail fraud. Tate also faces up to five years behind bars.

A grand jury in October indicted Johnson; his son, James Johnson; Josephine Spellman, a former employee of the business; and former bondsman Perry Becnel.

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