Accountant admits he stole nearly $1M from NOLA FF pension fund, feds say
Wayne Triche is accused of spending the money on gambling, home repairs and credit card payments
The Charlotte Observer
NEW ORLEANS — A 72-year-old accountant entrusted to look after a portion of the New Orleans Firefighters Pension and Relief Fund is accused of spending the investment money on gambling, home repairs and credit card payments.
Now he’s facing federal prison time.
Wayne Triche, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 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 embezzled money from the fund that he was supposed to invest in life insurance policies. Instead, he spent it on a slew of personal expenses over the course of eight years, prosecutors say.
Triche faces up to 23 years in prison on both charges when he’s sentenced in June.
Defense attorneys representing Triche did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment.
The New Orleans Firefighters Pension and Relief Fund administers survival, disability, retirement and death benefits for members of the New Orleans Fire Department and their families. Firefighters pay into the fund through monthly deductions from their paychecks, and the city of New Orleans also contributes.
A board of trustees manages the fund’s investments with financial consultants.
Triche started working with the fund as a certified public accountant at the company American Pension Consultants, according to federal court documents filed with his plea agreement.
APC was owned by another man, George Russell, and together they pitched the New Orleans Firefighters Pension and Relief Fund on an investment opportunity in 2003, prosecutors said.
The trustees declined, opting instead to pay APC $5 million to purchase life insurance policies, court documents state.
Russell died in 2007, prosecutors said, leaving Triche to take over management of APC and the pension fund’s investments. The alleged embezzlement scam started two years later.
From 2009 to 2017, Triche is accused of embezzling $937,658 from life insurance policy payouts.
Prosecutors said he hid the fact that APC had received more than $4 million in policy payouts by telling fund representatives that the investments weren’t profitable.
In reality, court documents state, Triche used the money to gamble at casinos, pay his mortgage on a commercial property, pay a civil judgment in a federal court case against him, cover his property taxes and pay for home improvements as well as other general 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, court documents show, and he tried unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed. A judge denied the request in 2020.
Triche’s trial was slated to begin March 21 before he pleaded guilty.
As part of the agreement, 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 another $329,895 to the IRS.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced June 14.
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