Jeffery Montalbano, a former investigator with the 22nd Judicial District Attorney's Office on the north shore, pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to an FBI agent who was investigating whether Montalbano helped a criminal defendant in exchange for money.
Jeffery Montalbano, a former investigator for the 22nd Judicial District Attorney's Office, was charged Thursday with one count of making a fa…
Montalbano, who resigned his post in April, was charged in a bill of information in September with one count of lying to federal authorities. His sentencing has been set for Feb. 6.
Montalbano, 58, was hired by the DA's Office in 2013 as an investigator responsible for collecting and preparing evidence in domestic violence investigations and trials and coordinating witnesses' and victims' testimony, according to a summary of the case prepared by the government and signed by Montalbano.
If the matter had gone to trial, the government said, it would have shown that Montalbano made false statements and omissions when he was interviewed by an FBI agent.
The agent was investigating $20,000 in payments made to an associate of Montalbano's by a defendant who had a pending criminal matter in the 22nd Judicial District — and whether Montalbano took official action in exchange for a cut of the money.
The 22nd Judicial District includes St. Tammany and Washington parishes.
Montalbano falsely said that neither he nor his associate, identified only as "Person 1," received any money from the defendant, identified only as "Defendant A," according to the summary. In fact, Defendant A wrote two $10,000 checks to Person 1, and Person 1 turned around and wrote two $5,000 checks to JBM Oil Sales, a firm owned by Montalbano.
The summary of the case also says Montalbano falsely stated that he didn't know that federal agents had visited the DA's offices in late 2015 to investigate an allegation that Montalbano had received money from the defendant.
FBI agents interviewed one of Montalbano's colleagues at the DA's Office on Oct. 8, 2015, to ask about his conduct during the prosecution of the defendant, according to prosecutors. Montalbano knew about the visit, although he denied it in a Jan. 23, 2018, interview with an FBI agent.
The government cited a Dec. 29, 2016, conversation between Montalbano and Person 1, in which Montalbano said he remembered FBI agents coming to the office "over a year ago." He also said that he had approached his supervisors to explain his conduct regarding the defendant.
The government said that Montalbano's false statements and omissions "impeded and otherwise had a material impact on the investigation," specifically, impeding the FBI from determining whether the payments were in exchange for actions benefiting a criminal defendant.
It's unclear from the documents whether the government believes that Montalbano in fact used his position to help the defendant. Had prosecutors been able to prove Montalbano took money in exchange for official help, he might have been charged with a more serious crime, such as bribery.
It's also not clear whether prosecutors intend to pursue charges against any of the other actors in the scheme, such as Montalbano's associate or the defendant who wrote the checks.