Two Livingston Parish residents pleaded guilty Tuesday in Baton Rouge federal court in a mail fraud scheme involving more than $100 million in life insurance policies and hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions.
Jason Paul Austin, of Walker, and Dena A. Gaudet, 33, of Denham Springs, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Gaudet admitted in a signed plea agreement that she conspired with an insurance agent, identified only as “T.S.,” to obtain $3.5 million life insurance policies from both New York Life and Lincoln Financial.
To obtain those policies, Gaudet said, she and “T.S.” falsely inflated her net worth to $500,000 and fraudulently reported her annual income as $120,000.
The plea agreement was witnessed by defense attorney Marci Blaize and Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard L. Bourgeois Jr.
In return for Gaudet’s guilty plea and agreement to testify as a prosecution witness, Bourgeois agreed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office would not prosecute Gaudet for any additional offenses related to the case.
While “T.S.” was not identified in Gaudet’s plea agreement, she and five other people originally were charged in cases that were alleged to have revolved around insurance agent Timothy R. Schlatre, 34, of Denham Springs.
Schlatre is charged with mail fraud and money laundering. He is a former life insurance agent for both New York Life and Lincoln Financial, according to the charges filed in July by Bourgeois and U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr.
Those same charges allege that Schlatre inflated the financial information of some of his clients in order to sell more than $100 million in whole life and universal life policies of the two insurers. From those sales, Schlatre is alleged to have received commissions totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Austin admitted Tuesday that he and “T.S.” conspired to falsely show his net worth to be $200,000 and his annual income to be $100,000. Those lies enabled Austin to buy life insurance policies totaling a combined $4 million from New York Life and Lincoln Financial, according to the man’s signed plea agreement.
And “T.S.” received commissions on the two policies, Austin added.
Austin agreed to testify, and Bourgeois agreed not to pursue any additional charges against him.
The conspiracy charge to which Austin and Gaudet pleaded guilty carries a possible penalty of five years in prison and possible fine of $250,000 in addition to any restitution that may be ordered by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson.
The losses tied to Austin and Gaudet’s crimes were not specified in their plea agreements.
Jackson told Bourgeois, Blaize and Austin’s attorney, Carl E. Babin, that those losses must be specified prior to sentencing of Gaudet and Austin.
The judge then scheduled Gaudet and Austin for sentencing on Feb. 27.
Other defendants who have not yet been arraigned include Walker residents Todd D. Cummings, 34, and Jodi Marie Austin, 34, wife of Jason Austin.
Also charged in the case are Denham Springs residents Jimmy O. Cassels, 33, and Ricky J. Austin, 49.