Accountant hijacked from firefighters’ pension fund, says feds

A 72-year-old accountant responsible for managing part of the New Orleans firefighters’ pension and relief fund is accused of spending money from the investment on gambling, home repairs and card payments credit.

Now he faces federal prison time.

Wayne Triche, of Baton Rouge, La., pleaded guilty on Wednesday, March 16 to wire and tax fraud charges in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Prosecutors said the charges stem from allegations that Triche misappropriated money from the fund he was supposed to invest in life insurance policies. Instead, he spent it on a multitude of personal expenses for eight years, prosecutors say.

Cheating faces up to 23 years in prison on both counts when he is sentenced in June.

Defense attorneys representing Triche did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment.

The New Orleans Fire Department Pension and Relief Fund administers survivorship, disability, retirement, and death benefits for members of the New Orleans Fire Department and their families. Firefighters contribute to the fund through monthly deductions from their paychecks, and the City of New Orleans also contributes.

A board of directors manages the fund’s investments with financial advisers.

Triche began working with the fund as a certified public accountant with American Pension Consultants, according to federal court documents filed with his plea agreement.

APC was owned by another man, George Russell, and together they offered the New Orleans Firefighters Pension and Relief Fund an investment opportunity in 2003, prosecutors said.

The administrators refused, choosing instead to pay APC $5 million to buy life insurance policies, according to court documents.

Russell died in 2007, prosecutors said, leaving Triche to take over management of APC and pension fund investments. The alleged scam began two years later.

From 2009 to 2017, Triche is accused of embezzling $937,658 in life insurance policy payments.

Prosecutors said he hid the fact that APC had received more than $4 million in police payouts by telling fund officials the investments were unprofitable.

In fact, court documents indicate that Triche used the money to gamble in casinos, pay his mortgage on commercial property, pay a civil judgment in a federal court case against him, cover his property taxes, and pay for improvements. residential and other general expenses. living expenses.

Triche also never reported that income on his tax returns between 2011 and 2014, prosecutors said.

A grand jury indicted Triche on 38 counts of wire and tax fraud in 2019, according to court documents, and he unsuccessfully tried to have the case dismissed. A judge denied the request in 2020.

Triche’s trial was due to start on March 21 before he pleaded guilty.

As part of the deal, Triche pleaded guilty to just two of the original 38 counts. He also agreed to pay $937,658 in restitution to the New Orleans Firefighters Pension and Relief Fund and an additional $329,895 to the IRS.

He is due to be sentenced on June 14.

Hayley Fowler is a reporter for The Charlotte Observer, covering breaking news and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She holds a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

Dolores W. Simon