The manager of a luxury condominium complex in Gretna was charged by federal prosecutors Wednesday with lying on her taxes, after she came under scrutiny during an investigation into her former tenant, Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts.
The single charge against Patricia Hargis, 70, doesn’t mention Roberts. But she is charged in a bill of information rather than a grand jury indictment, which suggests that she is cooperating with authorities.
Hargis managed the Riverview at Gretna complex in the 500 block of First Street, which means she collected rent from Roberts, who once lived in a second-floor unit but has since moved out.
Since they began investigating him at least a year ago, federal authorities have scrutinized Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts’ financ…
The feds’ interest in her was likely piqued because Roberts — along with his colleagues on the Parish Council — considered at least two items that may have affected a Terrytown bingo hall operated by a Hargis-owned company while he lived at the condo complex, which advertises its “picturesque” views of the Mississippi River and New Orleans skyline.
Roberts has long maintained that the investigation into him, which came to light nearly two years ago with a subpoena for his tax records, will yield no evidence of wrongdoing.
He has said his financial difficulties that preceded the investigation began when a business partner abruptly filed bankruptcy as Roberts was successfully battling a rare form of cancer.
Roberts had no idea Hargis was about to be charged, he said Wednesday. The news that she was likely cooperating with prosecutors also caused him “no worry,” he said.
“I’ve cooperated at every step” with the federal investigation, including providing years of personal and business financial documents, Roberts said.
Prosecutors have not communicated with him about the status of the investigation into him, he added.
According to the bill of information filed Wednesday, Hargis declared an adjusted gross income of $113,574 on her 2015 federal income tax return. In doing so, she understated her income and therefore the taxes she was supposed to pay, according to the documents prepared by Chandra Menon and Andre Lagarde, prosecutors who work on public corruption cases at U.S. Attorney Peter Strasser’s office.
Defendants who plead guilty after being charged in a bill of information generally must agree to cooperate with the feds, and it is possible Hargis will face questions about her dealings with Roberts.
She faces a possible fine and prison time if convicted as charged. She is tentatively scheduled to appear in front of U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon on April 24.
Her attorney, Ralph Capitelli, said he had no comment Wednesday.
One of the items that Roberts considered while on the council that could have affected Hargis’ business concerned regulations for a parking lot outside her company’s bingo hall. The other item involved the general requirements governing charitable bingo and keno games in the parish.
Hargis successfully requested that the parking lot measure be canceled, and it doesn’t appear that the Parish Council ever acted on the other item.
Nonetheless, the feds asked Hargis for financial documents, including those that outlined her dealings with Roberts, more than a year before she was charged.
The feds also sought documents covering any dealings between Roberts and Joseph Marcello, the son of former New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello, whose family owns much of the undeveloped West Bank land just east of the Jefferson-St. Charles parish line.
Roberts at one point acknowledged owing $186,000 to a Marcello-owned company over a personal loan. Roberts said he owed the amount after he and a partner purchased a sandwich shop owned by Marcello. Marcello self-financed part of the deal, and when Roberts' partner declared bankruptcy, Roberts was left owing the balance, Roberts said.
Those circumstances may have drawn the feds’ interest after Roberts, during a public spat with Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni, was asked whether he had participated in council votes that would pave the way for building projects on land near Avondale that Marcello partially owns.
The lines of inquiry suggest the feds were checking out whether Roberts had ever used his office to leverage anything of value from Hargis or Marcello.
Representatives for Hargis and Marcello have echoed Roberts in denying that was ever the case. Marcello's firm said that Roberts never involved himself in a proposal that would have triggered payments to Marcello.
Federal investigators also collected records from a Terrytown landscaping company formerly managed by the councilman and owned by Deborah Standley, the wife of Barry Bordelon, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Bordelon is an ex-aide to a former Roberts ally on the council, Elton Lagasse, as well as a consultant for companies that have held the parish contract to collect garbage and handle landfill operations. That contract is worth roughly $29 million annually.
Bordelon also served on the Jefferson Parish School Board with Roberts before Roberts joined the Parish Council in 2004.
Roberts said he began his job at Dan's Landscaping after a prior husband of Standley's died in 2013, before Standley married Bordelon.
This post has been updated since it was first published to include additional comments from Roberts.