One dead in Central City fire Saturday

A 28-year-old woman died Saturday after a two-story shotgun double in Central City caught fire.

New Orleans firefighters arrived at 2403 Saratoga St. at 9:39 a.m. and found heavy smoke and fire coming out of the doors and windows. A man who had escaped the fire by jumping from an upstairs window told firefighters that his girlfriend had been afraid to jump and was still inside.

Firefighters found the woman lying unconscious just outside a second-story bedroom; they administered CPR. Both residents were taken to the hospital by ambulance, where the man was treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries and the woman was pronounced dead.

A 7-year-old niece of the victims was also at the home at the time of fire but managed to escape unharmed. She lived next door, at 2401 S. Saratoga St., with her mother, who was at work at the time. The mother of the 28-year-old woman also lived at 2403 S. Saratoga but was out of town.

In all 20, Fire Department units carrying 52 firefighters and support personnel responded to the incident and brought it under control by 10:25 a.m.

The fire’s cause is under investigation.

Neither side of the shotgun had smoke alarms. Since Nov. 11, eight New Orleanians have died in fires at houses lacking smoke alarms, Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell said.

Impairment suspected in St. Bernard crash

A fatal crash Saturday morning on La. 39 near Angelique Drive in Violet claimed the life of Mathew Diecidue, 29, of Violet.

Preliminary investigation revealed that Diecidue was driving a 2008 Ford F-150 east on La. 39 shortly before 5 a.m., State Police said. For unknown reasons, the F-150 struck the curb on the median and Diecidue lost control. The vehicle then traveled to the right, rotating across the east travel lanes, and struck a fence and a ditch.

Diecidue, the only occupant, was partially ejected from the vehicle. He died at the scene.

Diecidue was not wearing a seat belt, and driver impairment is suspected, State Police said. Toxicology results are pending.

Dead man found Friday on Canal Street

About 11 a.m. Friday, a passerby called police about a 46-year-old man lying motionless in the 800 block of Canal Street.

The man was pronounced dead, but a cause of death has not been determined.

Feds: Clothing store exec stole $2.8 million

Michael Sapera, of Mandeville, was charged Friday in a four-count bill of information with bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and wire fraud, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite said. Sapera embezzled about $2.8 million from his employer over a 19-year period, Polite said.

According to court documents, Sapera, a certified public accountant, was employed at a retail clothing business headquartered in New Orleans, beginning in 1990. The documents don’t name the company, but Sapera’s LinkedIn account shows he was chief financial officer and director of information technology at Perlis Inc.

As such, he had access to all the company’s bank accounts.

From July 1996 to April 2014, Sapera allegedly stole $2,192,500 in corporate checks belonging to the company. He allegedly forged the signature of his employer on about 430 checks that he then endorsed to himself and deposited into his personal bank account.

Next, from July 2011 to August 2014, Sapera allegedly transferred corporate funds to his personal account without authorization or consent by the company’s owners. In total, he made 45 wire transfers totaling $582,080.

Finally, from June to October 2014, he transferred $35,000 in corporate funds from the company PayPal account to his personal PayPal account without authorization, the government said.

In all, he allegedly embezzled $2,809,580.

Two men arrested in Marrero car burglaries

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office on Friday announced the arrest of Charles Wills, 22, of Marrero, and Eldon Juneau, 37, of Gretna, in a series of vehicle burglaries.

In December, Detective Steve Higgerson was assigned to investigate a number of vehicle burglaries that occurred during December in the Marrero area. He learned there were two burglaries and two attempted burglaries involving marked JPSO units. On Jan. 16, he arrested Wills in connection with those burglaries.

As additional vehicle burglaries were being reported, Higgerson again questioned Wills, an admitted heroin user who allegedly confessed he was responsible for more burglaries, seeking money to support his addiction. Wills also allegedly told Higgerson that he committed all of the crimes with an accomplice, Juneau. However, Juneau refused to admit any wrongdoing.

With the exception of the JPSO units, the Sheriff’s Office said, the vehicles that were burglarized were left unlocked.

All of the property taken from the JPSO vehicles has been recovered.

The vehicle burglaries were reported on Carrie Lane, Highland Meadows, Dolores, Kirkwood, Joy Ann, Jeanne, Sierra, Lolan and Buccaneer streets, all in Marrero.

Higgerson’s investigation is continuing and may link additional crimes to Wills and Juneau, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Bookkeeper stole $1.8 million to gamble with

Paul E. Gardner, 57, of New Orleans, pleaded guilty to wire fraud regarding an embezzlement scheme that took place during his employment with Clovelly Oil Co., U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite announced.

According to court documents, Gardner operated an accounting, consulting, and tax preparation business for the past 30 years. In October 2007, Clovelly Oil hired him as a part-time bookkeeper. He was responsible for recording the receipts and disbursements for Clovelly and preparing the royalty checks for Clovelly’s more than 200 owners. In addition, he handled the payroll for all of Clovelly’s employees.

From August 2010 until his termination in May 2014, Gardner embezzled $1,798,000 from Clovelly Oil by manipulating the biweekly payroll records. Every two weeks, he increased his compensation by as much as $20,000, using the embezzled funds to satisfy gambling debts incurred at a New Orleans casino.

The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross amount stolen. U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown set sentencing for April 23.