Meeting with Mandeville businessman Raymond Reggie secretly recorded, witness says

A minority owner of and attorney for Supreme Automotive Group, of Slidell, testified Tuesday that he secretly recorded an August 2012 meeting in which politically connected Mandeville businessman Raymond Reggie was confronted about his alleged systematic theft of funds from the company.

David Loeb, a former Jefferson Parish prosecutor, said Reggie admitted taking funds from the company while acting as a media consultant for the group of car dealerships.

But that specific portion of the meeting was not recorded, acknowledged Loeb, whose testimony came during a hearing on motions filed so far in Reggie’s criminal case.

Reggie’s lead attorney, David Courcelle, argued Tuesday that Supreme Automotive Group’s top brass was aware of the payments made to Reggie.

Reggie, 51, was indicted in August on multiple federal counts of wire fraud and money laundering and is slated to stand trial April 14 in Baton Rouge.

He is accused of using his advertising agency to steal more than $1.1 million from January 2009 until July 2012 from car dealerships that were among his clients. He essentially gave himself a $1.1 million raise by billing the dealerships for advertising that was never purchased, the indictment alleges.

Alleged victims included members of Super Chevy Dealers of Baton Rouge and Supreme Automotive Group.

Supreme Automotive Group’s members have dealerships in Gonzales, Plaquemine and other locations in southeast Louisiana.

Reggie, son of the late Crowley City Judge Edmund Reggie, is a former brother-in-law of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and once was a confidant of former President Bill Clinton. Edmund Reggie died in November.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, at the request of Reggie’s attorneys, on Tuesday sealed both the tape of the meeting that Loeb recorded and a transcript of the recording. Federal prosecutors did not object to the sealing, which keeps the recording and transcript out of public view until they are unsealed by the court.

Dick ruled the recording and transcript are authentic. The defense team still could challenge their admissibility. Courcelle said the defense wants its expert to examine Loeb’s digital recorder.

Loeb said he did not tell Reggie he was recording their August 2012 meeting.

“I didn’t want Mr. Reggie to be aware of it. I wanted the conversation to be candid and open,” he testified.

Loeb estimated that roughly five minutes of the meeting went unrecorded, but Courcelle said the defense believes some 20 minutes was not recorded.

Reggie’s prior fraud convictions also were a subject of Tuesday’s hearing.

Reggie pleaded guilty in 2005 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank frauds that cost Hibernia National Bank of New Orleans $3.4 million — Capital One bought Hibernia that year — and Biz Capital of Metairie $3.3 million. He was sentenced in that case by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans to 12 months and one day in prison. Barbier also ordered Reggie to pay full restitution to both victims.

Courcelle argued that allowing a jury to hear about Reggie’s previous convictions would unfairly prejudice him.

“I think this is a clear case of undue prejudice,” he told Dick. “This case is completely dissimilar from the prior case.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rene Salomon disagreed, saying the former case dealt with false invoices. Prosecutors in the current case also allege Reggie used such invoices to steal money from the company.

“It all deals with phony invoices,” the prosecutor told the judge.

Dick said the prior convictions are “fair game” if Reggie testifies at trial.

In 1993, Edmund Reggie pleaded guilty in Lafayette to a charge that he misapplied funds of his failed Acadia Savings and Loan. U.S. District Judge John Shaw sentenced Reggie to four months of home confinement, fined him $30,000 and placed him on probation for three years. Acadia Savings lost more than $40 million when it collapsed in 1987.