Money used on Saints tickets, vacations, a lease payments for a Mercedes-Benz, among other things
Latanya Arnold, 49, began serving a three-year prison sentence on March 8, a little more than a month after pleading guilty to a charge of felony theft, according to St. Tammany Parish court records. District Attorney Warren Montgomery's office handled the case.
Then, last week, her husband, 50-year-old Raymond Arnold, received five years of probation shortly after pleading guilty to a charge of money laundering.
Judge Scott Gardner of 22nd Judicial District Court ordered both Arnolds to pay restitution, with Latanya’s being more than $2.2 million and Raymond’s roughly $272,000.
Charbonnet didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. But, in a statement from Montgomery’s office, he described how the theft “devastated the financial stability of his business (and) shattered his trust in the humanity of people.”
Charbonnet, 67, is a well-known figure in local political circles, having held roles such as general counsel for the New Orleans Aviation Board and Orleans Parish School Board while sitting on the city’s port and public library boards.
He was a key supporter of the 2017 mayoral bid of his sister, Desiree Charbonnet, who lost to LaToya Cantrell.
The case against the Arnolds dates back to early May 2017, when — a few days after Latanya Arnold left the firm — Charbonnet noticed a $25,000 withdrawal from a bank account that only he and she could access.
A warrant filed by the New Orleans Police Department said she had used the money to bail her son, Malcolm, out of jail following his arrest in St. Charles Parish on drug possession counts.
When Charbonnet confronted Arnold, she said she would repay the money, police said at the time. But police said she later forged Charbonnet’s signature on a check drawing money from another of his law office’s bank accounts, which she couldn’t access.
A worried Charbonnet then had all of his firm’s accounts audited, dating back to Arnold’s hiring in 2008. That audit identified $2,240,534 in unauthorized expenditures from six bank accounts associated with Charbonnet’s firm and related entities, authorities said.
Authorities said Arnold used the money for a Mercedes-Benz, tuition, vacations, clothes, salon services, tickets to Saints games and loan payments.
Police also found evidence that some of the money covered operating expenses for two companies that the Arnolds ran out of their home in Slidell. One sold tobacco products; the other was involved in the trucking business.
Investigators in New Orleans arrested the Arnolds on July 21, and they posted bail shortly afterward.
Ultimately, it was Montgomery who filed charges in the case. Both Arnolds were charged with theft, with Raymond Arnold facing an additional count of money laundering.
Latanya Arnold, who moves around with the help of a wheelchair, pleaded guilty as charged in Gardner’s courtroom on Feb. 6 rather than stand trial. She received a 10-year prison sentence March 1, with seven of those years suspended. She will serve three years of probation upon her release.
Raymond Arnold pleaded guilty to money laundering on March 11; Montgomery’s office dismissed the theft count. He received a 10-year prison sentence that was entirely suspended but faces five years of probation.
Raymond Arnold’s position was that “he didn’t know everything that his wife was doing,” his attorney, Jerry Fontenot, said Tuesday. “He admitted to knowing about a portion of the money but was unaware of the full extent.”
An attorney for Latanya Arnold, Aaron Rives, said he and his client believed the outcome of the case was reasonable. He said it had been “a hard time for her and her family.”
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After $2M-plus stolen from New Orleans lawyer Bernard 'Bunny' Charbonnet, couple pleads guilty