NEW ORLEANS (CN) – In a federal RICO complaint, a former member of the Adams & Reese law firm claims the law office refused to stop a client who wanted to bribe a U.S. attorney through U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson. The acts supposedly took place in the days after the FBI raided former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ home and office in a gambling investigation, and raided the offices of Edwards’ associate Robert Guidry, who allegedly paid bribes to or through Rep. Jefferson.
James Perdigao claims that the FBI raids on April 27, 1997 included Edwards’ associate Robert J. Guidry, majority owner of the Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, La., who allegedly sought the office’s help.
Perdigao claims the law office’s senior partner Robert Vosbein was a friend of Guidry and a part owner of the Treasure Chest Casino. So was Adams & Reese partner Louis Wilson, Perdigao says, though Wilson is not named as a defendant in this case.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Perdigao has been “charged with stealing roughly $30 million from the large New Orleans law firm that employed him.” Perdigao has asked that U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office be recused from that case because of alleged conflicts of interest, the Times-Picayune reported. Perdigao’s recusal motion claims that “after he was arrested in 2004 the former Adams and Reese partner provided federal authorities with juicy leads about other criminal activity he knew of – some of it involving key players in the case against former Gov. Edwards,” the newspaper reported in its April 22 edition.
In the lawsuit he filed Tuesday, Perdigao claims, “Adams and Reese, through the efforts of Vosbein, Wilson, plaintiff, and other lawyers at the firm, provided a wide range of legal services to multi-millionaire Guidry and his companies.”
The complaint continues: “As Guidry frantically tried to figure out the direction of the Edwards criminal investigation, Guidry requested that plaintiff get feedback from Vosbein, Wilson and others at the firm on how to ‘get to’ U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan and on how to hide his money. Plaintiff spoke with Vosbein about Guidry’s request and suggested to Vosbein that the firm should counsel against this proposed course of action. Vosbein shrugged off the suggestion, noting that Guidry had done this sort of thing successfully all of his life and that prison would not bother Guidry as much as losing his money. Vosbein noted to plaintiff that Guidry’s best shot to get to U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan was through U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson. Vosbein concluded by noting that this situation presented a huge opportunity to make millions of dollars in fees helping Guidry hide his money. Plaintiff also sought out senior partner Wilson in the hopes that Wilson would derail Guidry’s latest scheme. Rather than directly address plaintiff’s concerns, Wilson deflected the inquiry by joking that Guidry had ‘balls of steel’ to consider bribing the prosecutor when he was getting ready to get indicted in a corruption case. Wilson advised plaintiff that he already had talked to Vosbein about hiding Guidry’s money under the guise of ‘estate planning.’ When plaintiff said that he thought something should be said or done to stop the scheme, Vosbein told plaintiff to get that idea out of his head or ‘you’ll be out of here in a heartbeat.'”
Perdigao claims that in a meeting with him, Vosbein and Wilson, Guidry said that “he was getting his own insurance, referring to his plan to bribe U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan through the efforts of U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson. … Guidry proclaimed that he had an ace in the hole, and that his ace was an ace of spades, referring to his African-American conspirator. After Guidry left Adams and Reese, plaintiff tried to convince Vosbein and Wilson to counsel Guidry against this scheme. Both Vosbein and Wilson shrugged off plaintiff’s deepening concerns, admonishing plaintiff not to underestimate Guidry.”
Perdigao says he became a partner in the firm on Jan. 1, 1993, and was appointed the ethics adviser for its business division. He claims that Vosbein became “furious” when Perdigao told him that, because of his expertise in gambling law, he had provided the U.S. Attorney’s Office with background information about the subject for this investigation, and “also agreed to provide testimony to the grand jury and if an indictment was returned, at trial if requested by the government. … Vosbein became furious at the plaintiff, advising him that he worked for Vosbein, not the federal government and that he and the firm would decide if, when, and how plaintiff could testify. These statements acted to intimidate plaintiff,” the complaint states.
Perdigao claims that in the spring of 1998 he met with Guidry at Guidry’s penthouse in Harvey, La. At this meeting, Perdigao says, “Guidry proceeded to tell plaintiff how he was bribing U.S. Attorney Eddie Jordan through U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson. Guidry instructed plaintiff to follow him into the bathroom off of the master bedroom where he proceeded to fill a bag with cash that had been hidden under some tiles next to the bathtub. Guidry noted that he never placed the money directly in Jefferson’s hands, but rather under the back steps while Jefferson watched inside through the window. Guidry then recounted the story of his first ‘drop’ under the back steps of Jefferson’s house in New Orleans. When Guidry entered the back yard, he found two sets of steps. With a puzzled look, he glanced through the window for directions from Jefferson. Guidry related that both he and Jefferson ‘cracked up laughing’ as Jefferson pointed him to behind a planter by the correct stairs.”
Perdigao says that he “nervously raced back to the firm to speak with his senior partners and the firm’s ethics/claims counsel Martin Stern and Guidry lawyer Ed Lazier in the, as it turned out, naïve and vain hope that the firm would take appropriate affirmative action or at a minimum withdraw from representing Guidry. Instead of taking any action to distance the firm from Guidry’s actions, neither Stern nor Lazier wanted any involvement in the issue and referred plaintiff back to Vosbein. Vosbein then instructed plaintiff to attempt to accompany Guidry on a drop. ‘If you do, take it from me, you will have a multi-million dollar client for life,’ Vosbein told plaintiff.”
Perdigao says he refused, and told Vosbein that “he felt that he needed to report Guidry’s activities to the authorities. Vosbein advised plaintiff that if plaintiff were to disclose his conversations with Guidry in any fashion, he would make sure that plaintiff would never practic