GONZALES — Three-term Sorrento Town Councilman Randy Anny and his wife were charged Thursday with falsely claiming their fishing boat and trailer were contaminated by the BP oil spill to get money from the company.
Federal prosecutors allege in the indictment that the councilman and his wife, Barbara Falgoust Anny, submitted a false $7,800 claim in November 2010 for damage to their 26-foot boat and trailer while in Grand Isle during the April 2010 spill.
In February, the FBI seized the boat, with its name “Who’s Ya Daddy” emblazoned near the bow, from the couple’s Sorrento home, fueling rampant speculation that Anny was the target of some kind of federal investigation. The boat was later returned.
The grand jury indictment Thursday in Baton Rouge charged the Annys, both of Sorrento, with a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud.
Anny’s indictment marks the third time a current or former Sorrento elected official has faced criminal counts in the past year and a half.
Federal prosecutors filed a bill of information against former Police Chief Earl Theriot Jr. on Feb. 5, 2014, charging him with lying to an FBI agent about “inappropriate sexual contact” with a woman. He resigned from office and pleaded guilty five days later.
Then, in fall 2014, former Mayor Wilson Longanecker Jr. was arrested on dozens of state counts of possession of child pornography and, later in December, on more counts of animal cruelty. Those charges are still pending. Longanecker maintains his innocence.
The Annys face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of any of the counts, according to online federal statutes.
The indictment and a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge detail how Anny submitted a fraudulent repair invoice to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and then how the couple used a joint email account to follow up on the bogus claim about the 2004 ProSport boat.
BP set up the claims facility to process damage claims over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Anny claimed a company named Kellium LLC overhauled two motors, replaced trailer bunks on the boat’s trailer and repainted the boat’s hull as part of the $7,800 in work, the indictment says.
Federal prosecutors said in the statement the Annys received the $7,800 payment in June 2011 in a joint bank account.
U.S. Attorney Walt Green said Thursday that the couple will be issued a summons to turn themselves in to a federal magistrate, but he did not have a specific date yet.
Talk of a federal grand jury investigation has swirled for nearly two years around a 2012 sewer job and what role Anny, who was mayor pro tem at the time, had in authorizing the job and signing a $77,500 check for the project. But there’s been no talk about the allegedly bogus boat claim.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into the sewer job in the fall of 2013 after newly elected Mayor Mike Lambert began raising questions about the work, which had not been completed.
Sheriff Jeff Wiley, who said his office has assisted in the investigation of the sewer job, said Thursday he would yield to federal authorities about where the investigation will go from this point.
“I don’t know what else is going on with it,” Wiley said.
Green could not, by agency policy, shed much more light.
“I can’t say what is not public, but our investigation continues,” he said.
Anny has disputed any wrongdoing over the sewer contract and has continued to serve on the council, saying in the days after the boat was seized that his work on the council would “be business as usual.”
Anny could not be reached for comment Thursday, but Sorrento Mayor Mike Lambert said Anny had been at work Tuesday night during a regular Town Council meeting.
Under state law, Anny, as an elected official, can remain in office while facing the charges.
For the past several months, even with the nebulous spectre of a grand jury investigation hanging over the town, the small Ascension Parish community has settled into relative humdrum normalcy after the year and a half of turmoil that makes Anny’s indictment only the latest in a laundry list of woes.
The town Police Department lost its insurance coverage in fall 2013. After that, sexual assault allegations emerged against Theriot in a civil suit and then later the child porn allegations surfaced against Longanecker, who served as mayor from mid-2011 to mid-2013.
After Theriot’s guilty plea in February 2014, he was sentenced that September to two years’ probation and hit with a $2,500 fine after having been forced to resign as part of the plea deal.
Theriot has claimed in response to the woman’s federal civil suit that the contact was consensual.
In late 2014, voters did away with the Police Department, but it took town officials months and a monetary settlement to have Theriot’s replacement, Fern Barnett, resign earlier this year and bring a final end to the troubled department.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.