Judge wants info in bike dealer’s money laundering case

Denham Springs resident Kevin Paul Calmes was scheduled to report to federal prison on Jan. 7 to begin serving a 30-month federal prison sentence for his conviction on charges that he laundered money for drug dealers.

Calmes remains free, however.

A federal judge has extended the prison report date for the manager of the now-defunct Calmes Motorsports LLC to Feb. 5. That judge wants more information on Calmes’ contention that prosecutors presented testimony from a witness who told one story to the federal grand jury that indicted him and another story to the trial jury that convicted him.

In August, Calmes, 40, was convicted on one count of money laundering, three counts of structuring large cash transactions to avoid mandatory reports to the IRS and other federal agencies, and failing to file one such report on a cash transaction in excess of $10,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rene I. Salomon and Shubhra Shivpuri told trial jurors Calmes repeatedly and illegally helped drug dealers buy motorcycles costing more than $10,000 for cash.

Jon S. McLindon, Calmes’ attorney, told jurors his client was simply explaining federal laws and IRS regulations to customers.

Now, McLindon has told visiting U.S. District Judge Lance Africk, of New Orleans, that a November 2008 New Orleans Police Department report shows one prosecution witness told police officers he owned a motorcycle stolen from his residence.

That witness was Stephon Chaney, brother of convicted drug dealer Luke Matthews.

“Chaney told the officer about his bike being stolen from his house, and that he did not give anyone else permission to use it, and that he had the only set of keys,” McLindon told Africk in a court filing Friday.

Chaney told grand jurors in Calmes’ case that “the bike was stolen,” McLindon added. “He never said it was stolen from him or his residence.”

McLindon noted that Chaney told grand jurors that Matthews had the motorcycle when it was stolen.

At the jury trial, McLindon said, Chaney told jurors that he never kept the motorcycle at his house.

Salomon, one of the prosecutors, recalled in a court filing this month that Matthews testified at trial that Calmes helped him purchase the motorcycle for cash. Matthews also testified Calmes allowed him to later place the motorcycle’s title in Chaney’s name.

“Calmes contends the NOPD narrative report and affidavit prove Chaney truly used and enjoyed the motorcycle, which Calmes argues conflicts with the government’s theory that the motorcycle was never possessed or used by Chaney,” Salomon added.

Salomon said Chaney told grand jurors that Matthews bought the motorcycle in Chaney’s name without his advance knowledge.

At trial, Salomon told Africk, Chaney testified “the motorcycle did not belong to him, he had no advance knowledge that Matthews was going to use him as a nominee, that various signatures on the sales documents did not belong to him.”

Salomon also said Chaney told trial jurors “he did not contribute any funds toward the purchase of the motorcycle, he did not pay any of the taxes or fees associated with the purchase, he never possessed the motorcycle, the motorcycle was never stored at his home.”

Salomon added that McLindon never questioned Chaney at trial about any inconsistencies between his grand jury and trial testimony.

Not once, Salomon said, did defense attorneys allege at trial that Chaney, rather than Matthews, was the actual owner of the motorcycle.

An IRS agent testified at trial that Calmes, in recorded conversations, told an undercover agent, posing as a marijuana dealer, that he could help the man buy a motorcycle with cash, but avoid federal cash transaction reports.

Salomon urged Africk not to vacate Calmes’ conviction and not to grant a new trial.

Africk told prosecutors Friday that he wants more information from them. The judge also ruled that Calmes does not have to report to federal prison before Feb. 5.