In a sign that the federal investigation into St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed is intensifying, agents from the FBI have visited his office twice in the past nine days, most recently Friday morning, courthouse logs show and the FBI confirmed.
Courthouse weapons logs show that four FBI agents entered the courthouse Friday morning, checking their weapons with the deputies at the front desk. On May 28, the logs show that two agents entered.
Mary Beth Romig, a spokeswoman for the bureau, confirmed that the agents were visiting Reed’s office but declined to offer further details, such as whether they were serving a search warrant, delivering subpoenas or interviewing employees. However, she said she would not characterize the agents’ visit as a “raid.”
The two agents who signed the logbook on May 28, Steven Zeringue and Matt Russell, are assigned to the FBI’s civil rights squad. Zeringue was among the four agents who visited Friday, as was Malcolm Bezet, who is assigned to the bureau’s public-corruption squad. The full names and assignments of the other two agents who signed in Friday could not be determined from the logbooks, which are partially redacted.
Russell also visited the courthouse on Feb. 13, the logs show. And FBI agents were in the courthouse — though it is unclear whom they came to see — on April 22, May 14 and May 19. It’s also not clear whether any or all of those visits pertained to the Reed probe.
A spokesman for Reed did not respond to requests for comment Friday. The New Orleans Advocate has filed a public records request with Reed’s office asking to see any subpoenas from the federal grand jury, but the office has not responded to the request.
The news comes on the heels of reports earlier this week that federal authorities had served a grand-jury subpoena on St. Tammany Parish Recreation District No. 1, where the Castine Center is located, for records related to Reed. The district attorney hosted fundraisers at the Castine Center in 2008, 2011 and 2012. The May 5 subpoena requested that the recreation district provide any and all documents related to Walter Reed and his son, Steven, who was paid $29,400 for services related to a 2012 Reed fundraiser, though precisely what services the younger Reed provided remain murky.
The subpoena was the first evidence that a federal grand jury has begun looking into the activities of the six-term district attorney. However, the FBI has been gathering intelligence on Reed for months, interviewing people close to him, according to one person close to Reed who was visited by agents.
Reed, who is the highest-paid district attorney in the state, has held lucrative side jobs during his three-decade run as DA, including a private law practice, a gold-buying business and a job doing legal work for the St. Tammany Parish Hospital. The latter job paid him $30,000 a year; he quit it last month in the midst of intense media scrutiny.
A major unanswered question about Reed’s hospital work is whether the work was supposed to be handled by the DA’s Office or Reed personally — and who was supposed to be paid for it. Hospital officials have said they have no contract for the arrangement, but they believed that the legal services were being provided by the DA’s Office, not Reed personally.
But Reed has said he was doing the work as a private lawyer, and he apparently has been depositing the money from the hospital into a personal account.
The checks were made out to “Reed, Walter,” at the address of the district attorney’s office: 701 N. Columbia St. in Covington.
The New Orleans Advocate sent a public records request to the hospital Thursday asking it to provide any subpoenas with which it may have been served. The hospital acknowledged receipt of the request but had not fulfilled it as of Friday afternoon.
Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said the investigation into Reed appears to be picking up steam.
“We already know that they’re investigating the DA because of the subpoena that went out to the Castine Center, and it should come as no surprise that FBI agents are visiting the District Attorney’s Office,” Goyeneche said. “I doubt this will be the last time they do it, either.”
New Orleans Advocate Investigations Editor Gordon Russell contributed to this report. Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.
Editor’s note: This story was changed June 11 to reflect that the fundraiser for which Steven Reed was paid $29,400 took place in 2012, not 2011.