Five of 7 sentenced in insurance scam

Five Livingston Parish residents were sentenced to probation Wednesday in Baton Rouge federal court after admitting that they conspired to commit mail fraud and cost two insurance companies $79,644 in combined losses.

However, two remaining defendants are scheduled for sentencing March 27. One of those is a former insurance agent alleged in court documents to have caused New York Life and Lincoln Financial combined losses “in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

On Wednesday, Dena A. Gaudet, 33, of Denham Springs, apologized to Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson, her family and the insurance companies.

The mother of two pleaded for probation, adding: “I have never found myself in such a shameful position. I certainly regret all of this.”

Jackson placed Gaudet on probation for two years, fined her $1,000 and ordered her to pay restitution of $30,821. Of that total, $17,556 must be paid to New York Life. The remainder goes to Lincoln Financial Group.

Jimmy O. Cassels, the 33-year-old husband of Gaudet, also apologized.

“I don’t know why it is people think they can rip off a big company and get away with it,” Jackson replied.

The judge fined Cassels $1,000, placed him on probation for two years and ordered him to pay restitution of $25,610. Of that total, $20,000 goes to Lincoln National Life Insurance Co., and the rest belongs to New York Life.

Todd D. Cummings, 34, of Walker, was sentenced to two years of probation, fined $1,000 and ordered to pay restitution of $10,251 to New York Life.

“This won’t happen again,” Cummings promised Jackson.

“Don’t let any of us down,” the judge replied.

Jason Paul Austin, 32, of Walker, told Jackson: “I made an unfortunate mistake that I’ve got to pay for the rest of my life. You will never see me in this courtroom again.”

The judge fined Austin $1,000 and placed him on probation for two years. Austin also was ordered to pay restitution of $10,256 to New York Life.

Jodi Marie Austin, the 34-year-old ex-wife of Jason Austin, “is one of the most trustworthy and hard-working ladies,” Steven J. Moore, her attorney, told Jackson. “This is not in her character.”

“I agree with you,” the judge told Moore. “This is an aberration.”

Jackson sentenced Jodi Austin to one year of probation, fined her $500 and ordered her to pay restitution of $2,706 to New York Life.

“It’s an unfortunate situation that you were dragged into this thing,” the judge told Jodi Austin.

Scheduled for sentencing March 27 are two Denham Springs residents, 49-year-old Ricky J. Austin and 34-year-old Timothy R. Schlatre.

Ricky Austin pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Schlatre, the former insurance agent, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering.

He admitted he defrauded New York Life and Lincoln Financial by selling multimillion-dollar life insurance policies to clients whose financial statements were grossly inflated. The former agent received commissions on those sales.

Schlatre’s money laundering conviction stemmed from his use in June 2010 of a cashier’s check in the amount of $46,485 to pay for a 2007 Cadillac Escalade.