After failing to enter into plea bargain with prosecutors, the case of the former head of Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. would go to trial this coming March 22. Terry Lisotta, the former executive, was accused of having committed theft by fraud. According to reports, Assistant Attorney General David Caldwell and defense lawyer David Courcelle held a more than an hour closed-door meeting in the presence of Judge Richard Anderson of the 19th Judicial District.
The Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is a non-profit organization aimed at providing insurance products “for residential and commercial property applicants who are in good faith, but unable to procure insurance through the voluntary insurance marketplace.” Two of its related insurance organizations include the Louisiana Automobile Insurance Plan and the Property Insurance Association of Louisiana. The former is the state’s high risk auto insurance pool.
About $30,000 was said to have been misused by Lisotta. If found guilty, he could face up to $42,000 in fines and restitution to the state along with an imprisonment penalty that could last up to 140 years. This is equivalent to the 14-count of indictments held against him, or a $3,000 fine and 10 years on each count.
In a report released by State Legislative Auditor Steve Theriot, it is said that there was a wide range of financial wrongdoing committed by Lisotta which includes double-dipping and falsified receipts. From 2003 to 2006, the audit reveals that expenses for trips, lavish meals, retirement gifts and airline tickers amounting to more than $285,000 were spent. All of these were not related to the companies operations. More than $106,500 of these could also not be accounted for, according to the audit report.
The spending habits and charges claimed against Lisotta included paying $5,000 more for airline tickets when he took a business trip with former Citizens Chief Financial Officer Caryl Marthes to Europe. Even his four-day stay at hotel rooms in the 2005 Carnival Season with his daughters, as well as party expenses for a prom party of his daughter, were put in question.
Caldwell and Courcelle stated that even before the discussion, both had doubted the possibility of a brokered plea bargain. Caldwell said that they could not agree on the possible jail time that Lisotta had to spend if he entered a plea. Courcelle, however, maintained that they are ready to on trial which is expected to last a week.
A plea bargain is basically an agreement in criminal cases whereby a defendant may plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for a lighter than the maximum sentence. It gives the accused the opportunity to avoid sitting through a trial risking conviction on a more serious charge.