Richard Sharp, a Texas oil and gas consultant, pleaded guilty Wednesday in 22nd Judicial District Court to state charges of racketeering and two felony counts of issuing worthless checks in a scheme to defraud his former company.
Sharp, 47, also read aloud a lengthy statement in which he recanted statements he made earlier against GDH International and his former business partners. He singled out shareholders Jared Riecke, Dan Buras, Dudley Geigerman, Patrick Gros and the now-deceased Bruce Cucchiara in the apology.
“I admit that I used blogs, forums, meetings with reporters, third parties, anonymous names, pseudonyms and other names to post false and misleading information,” he said.
That false information included “lies and rumors” following the death of Cucchiara, a partner in the company who was murdered in New Orleans East in April 2012.
Among other things, Sharp claimed at the time that Cucchiara would have been his star witness in his legal woes and falsely insinuated that the company and its partners were involved in his death.
Sharp also apologized to Cucchiara’s family.
Ad hoc Judge Walter Rothschild accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Sharp to a five-year prison sentence that will be suspended as long as he completes five years of active probation. He must also pay $600,000 in restitution, in $10,000 monthly installments.
Assistant District Attorney John Alford prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the DA’s Office and the Covington Police Department.
Sharp’s statement included a “factual basis” in which he admitted making numerous false statements to the owners of the company when they offered him a membership interest. Those included lying about his military service and forging documents that showed an oil and gas company owed him nearly $160,000. That money was to serve as his share to become a partner and member of the board of directors of GDHI.
The partners accepted the deal, but the date that the money was supposedly to come to Sharp passed with no payment.
“Over the next few weeks and months, through a series of misrepresentations and fraud, Richard Sharp issued two worthless checks to GDHI,” one for $105,000 and the other for $100,000, the statement said.
Attorney Joe McMahon said his client “made a decision he felt was in his best interest” in accepting the plea agreement.
Sharp had previously pleaded not guilty to theft and a worthless check charge — charges that he tried to have quashed a year ago. But the District Attorney’s Office, then under DA Walter Reed, raised the stakes and dropped the theft charge in favor of racketeering, a seldom-used state statute that carries harsher penalties.
Sharp had filed a federal lawsuit against Reed in 2012 alleging that his rights were violated when St. Tammany officials decided to go after him on criminal charges.
His lawsuit, which was dismissed in December 2013, claimed that Reed filed criminal charges against him to help Sharp’s business partners in a civil suit they had filed against him seeking the money he owed them.
His federal suit named as defendants former Covington Police Chief Richard Palmisano, the Covington Police Department, the city of Covington and Judge Peter Garcia, among others.
Sharp also tried unsuccessfully to undo the settlement in the civil case his partners brought against him.
In his statement Wednesday, he addressed the litigation, saying he fabricated “the numerous false and outlandish accusations ... in an effort to destroy their credibility and cast doubt on the charges to which I now admit guilt.”
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