Did the former director of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control strong-arm New Orleans-area night club owners to contribute to the campaign of one of the candidates for governor in last fall’s elections?
A confidential source told LouisianaVoice that club owners and businesses in Orleans and Jefferson Parish were pressured during two separate meetings prior to the Oct. 24 primary election to contribute to the gubernatorial campaign of Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle.
There is no evidence that Angelle knew about or approved of the alleged coercion to contribute to his campaign.
Ten businesses or individuals subsequently contributed more than $30,500 to Angelle’s campaign, all of which was given prior to the primary election in which Angelle finished third to eventual winner John Bel Edwards and U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
Why would club owners be asked to contribute to Angelle? One possible explanation might be that ATC Director Troy Hebert thought Angelle’s election represented his best chance for reappointment. Hebert resigned on Jan. 10, the day before John Bel Edwards became governor.
None of the 10 contributed to either of the other three candidates for governor though seven of them also contributed more than $19,000 to John Young’s unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor, campaign records show.
John Young’s brother, attorney Chris Young, represents numerous New Orleans clubs and bars in proceedings before the ATC. Chris Young also serves as a lobbyist for the Beer Industry League of Louisiana. Their sister, Judy Pontin, serves as ATC’s $71,000-per-year “executive management officer” in ATC’s New Orleans office.
The timing of Operation Trick or Treat, a joint sting operation conducted by ATC and Louisiana State Police, also raises the question of whether there may have been a pattern of selective investigations of French Quarter strip clubs, particularly in New Orleans, last September and October.
Eighteen clubs in Orleans and Jefferson Parish were subjected to the investigation. Seventeen of the 18 did not contribute to Angelle. Only Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club among those that contributed was among those clubs visited in Operation Trick or Treat, according to a list obtained from ATC by LouisianaVoice. No violations were found there.
In all, nine clubs were found in violation of infractions of underage alcohol sales, drug use and/or prostitution.
Were club owners who contributed to Angelle and/or Young deliberately passed over during the joint LSP-ATC operation? Or were they just lucky?
Did the undercover investigation just happen to coincide with the run-up to the 2015 election for governor and lieutenant governor? Were those clubs who had their liquor licenses pulled targeted for their failure to follow through with political contributions? And did the license revocations help eliminate French Quarter competition for favored clubs?
A source close to the events contacted LouisianaVoice by email several weeks ago. Writing under an assumed name, the source said that prior to the Oct. 24 primary election, Hebert held private meetings with several club owners “to shake down the businesses” for contributions to Angelle’s campaign fund. She said the meetings were held “on top of Oceana Restaurant on Conti and in Metairie on Veterans Highway at Cajun Canyons Restaurant” (Cajun Cannon), run by former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert (no relation to Troy Hebert). It wasn’t immediately clear if she meant the rooftop of the Oceana or on the top floor of the restaurant.
Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon Restaurant & Bar is located at 4101 Veterans Memorial Blvd., but nowhere in the Secretary of State’s corporate records is Hebert listed as an officer of that or any other corporate entity in Orleans or Jefferson Parish.
Instead, the trade name Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon is listed at 5828 Marcia Ave. in New Orleans—the same address as several other corporations.
Oceana Restaurant is located at 739 Conti Street, the same address as Oceana Enterprises, LLC. Wassek N. Badr is listed as both the registered agent and the only officer of Oceana Enterprises.
And this is where it gets really confusing.
The name Badr, or Bader, crops up in several other corporate filings in New Orleans, all with the same 5828 Marcia Ave. address as Bobby Hebert’s Cajun Cannon nightclub.
Others with Wassek Badr’s name listed as officer include Cajun Estates of 5828 Marcia, Cajun Conti, LLC, and Cajun Cuisine, LLC, both of 739 Conti (same address as Oceana Restaurant), and MRW Orleans, LLC (Mohamad Wassek Bader and Rami Wassek Badr), 5828 Marcia.
Moe Wassek Badr is listed as the agent and only officer of Cajun Maple, LLC, of 5828 Marcia while Mohamad “Moe” Badr is given as agent and only officer of Olde Creole Palace, LLC. And Rami Badr is listed as agent and only officer of Cajun Broad, LLC, both located at 5828 Marcia.
Additionally, Morton Bader is named as agent for Cajun Estates.
Amer Bader is listed in corporate records as a member of Wasek Badr, LLC, and it is Amer Bader who has said that he exchanged text messages with Hebert in which he accused Hebert of extorting sexual favors from a woman experiencing licensing problems with ATC. http://louisianavoice.com/2016/01/26/fbi-said-investigating-troy-hebert-for-using-office-to-extort-sex-from-woman-in-exchange-for-fixing-licensing-problems/
Campaign finance reports filed by Angelle would seem to indicate the meetings at Oceana and Cajun Cannon were likely held on or around Sept. 16 and Oct. 12, 2015, since all the contributions to Angelle were on those two dates.
Two contributions of $5,000 each were made on Sept. 16 by Hospitality Consultants and Magnolia Enterprises, records show, and Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply gave $500 on that same date.
On Oct. 12, Quarter Holdings and ITMC Enterprises contributed $5,000 each to Angelle’s campaign, Bourbon Heat and Promenade Entertainment gave $2,500 each, and HDV No. 1, SB Entertainment, and CATS 701 each gave $1,666.66.
Here are those contributors to Angelle and the dates of their contributions:
- Hospitality Consultants: $5,000 on Sept. 16, 2015;
- Magnolia Enterprises, Inc.: $5,000 on Sept. 16;
- Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply, Inc.: $500 on Sept. 16;
- Quarter Holdings: $5,000 on Oct. 12;
- JTMC Enterprises: $5,000 on Oct. 12;
- Bourbon Heat: $2,500 on Oct. 12;
- Promenade Entertainment, LLC: $2,500 on Oct. 12;
- HDV No. 1, LLC: $1,666.67 on Oct. 12;
- SB Entertainment, Inc.: $1,666.67 on Oct. 12;
- CATS 701 Bourbon, LLC: $1,666.66 on Oct. 12
Here are the seven who also contributed more than $19,000 to John Young’s unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor, according to campaign reports obtained from the State Board of Ethics:
- Quarter Holdings, LLC: $5,000 on Dec. 29, 2014;
- Magnolia Enterprises, Inc.: $3,000 on Feb. 26, 2015 and $1,000 on April 29, 2015;
- SB Entertainment, Inc.: $1,666.67 on Aug. 21;
- CATS 701 Bourbon, LLC: $1,666.67 on Aug. 24;
- HDV No. 1, LLC: $1,666.66 on Aug. 24;
- JTMC Enterprises, LLC: $834 on Aug. 24;
- Bourbon Heat, LLC: $2,500 on Aug. 28, 2014 and $2,500 on Aug. 26, 2015.
Besides those businesses, also conspicuously absent from the list of clubs investigated by the joint ATC/LSP sting operation was Rick’s Cabaret. Rick’s bills itself on its web site as “New Orleans’ finest gentlemen’s experience.” Located at 315 Bourbon Street, it is within three blocks of all nine strip clubs which had their licenses suspended. Because of its proximity to the other clubs, it would stand to gain financially from business lost by the penalized establishments because of their inability to sell alcoholic beverages.
Robert Watters, owner of Rick’s Cabaret, is said to be friends with both Troy Hebert and State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.
The corporate records on the businesses are equally confusing.
Magnolia Enterprises and Quarter Holdings, LLC, share the same agent, Marcus Giusti, and at least one officer, Kishore V. Motwani. Additionally, Aaron K. Motwani is an officer in Magnolia Enterprises. Kishore Motwani also is an officer for Quarter Holdings, Inc. All three share the same Canal Street mailing address.
Neither CATS 701 Bourbon, which runs Cat’s Meow Club at that address, nor HDV No. 1, which operates Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, list any officers on the Secretary of State’s corporate web site, but they list the same Reno, Nevada address as their domicile. Along with SB Entertainment, they give Durand, Michigan, as their mailing address and SB Entertainment lists two corporate officers, both in Reno.
Bourbon Heat, LLC lists Huey Farrell as its agent and Angelo and Regina Farrell as officers while Jude Marullo is both agent and officer for Promenade Entertainment, LLC. Likewise, Warren Reuther, Jr., is agent and the only officer listed for Hospitality Consultants.
Pat O’Brien is listed as manager of Pat O’Brien Developments, LLC while only agents and no officers are given for JTMC Enterprises, LLC and Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply, Inc.
Attempts to reach spokesmen for the businesses who contributed to Angelle to determine if they were pressured to give to his campaign were unsuccessful.