A West Baton Rouge Grand Jury has returned three true bills on two brothers and four others for a list of serious charges including money laundering, malfeasance in office and conspiracy to commit money laundering. That means there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial against Robert and his brother Tom McCormick and their “business partners” Bernard Christmas, his wife Ava Richardson, Phillip Sibley and Stacy Smith.
Tom McCormick ran for judge in WBR parish a few years ago and is a lawyer with McCormick Law Firm. He also worked at the Louisiana Attorney General’s office as the Chief of Insurance Fraud Support Unit. His twin brother Robert worked at the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s (LSFM) office as a lieutenant until he quit.
According to the indictment, the McCormicks had some friends who used their companies to get contracts with the LSFM during natural disasters, for example, for water bottles during the ice storm last year, to the tune of $824,760 over a year’s span.
Robert was a part of the logistics team that decided and managed who got the contracts from the LSFM. He allegedly gave the contracts to his friends despite the extremely inflated prices. Those friends then wrote 31 checks worth $367,846 to the McCormick Law Firm. From there, the money was allegedly split between the McCormick brothers.
Due to nepotism laws, Tom McCormick could not work directly with his brother Robert for contracts.
Husband and wife Bernard Christmas and Ava Richardson had businesses under their names that they used to get the contracts. A search of their businesses comes back to Emergency Logistics Solutions, LLC with McCormick Law Firm as one of the agents and Phillip Sibley as another agent. Richardson’s business is Gifts Unlimited LLC.
The six people are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, racketeering, malfeasance in office, conspiracy to commit malfeasance in office and filing false documents.
The McCormick brothers turned themselves into the WBR jail Friday afternoon as did Bernard Christmas and his wife Ava Richardson minutes after them. A bond hearing has been set for Monday.
District Attorney Tony Clayton prosecuted the case in the 18th JDC due to the two companies opened by the friends originating in WBR and the McCormick brothers living in Iberville Parish.
STATEMENT FROM STATE FIRE MARSHAL’S OFFICE:
“We were angered and frustrated to be informed that our agency’s genuine effort to help the people of Louisiana, during one of the most challenging years in this state’s history, was allegedly taken advantage of.
We immediately conducted an internal investigation which has, so far, uncovered policy violations by former employee Robert McCormick, along with former reserve deputy Stacy Smith. McCormick, assigned to the agency’s emergency services division, resigned while on administrative leave, in lieu of termination, prior to the completion of the investigation. Stacy Smith’s reserve designation was separated from the agency.
The internal investigation has also, so far, revealed related and unrelated policy violations by McCormick’s supervisor, and Stacy Smith’s husband, former employee Dean Smith, who also resigned while on administrative leave prior to the conclusion of the investigation.
The internal investigation is ongoing, but being finalized. We continue to review internal controls while we stand in support of the efforts of 18th Judicial District Attorney Tony Clayton, as well as the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, who initiated an investigation in May at the request of the governor’s office. All agencies involved are committed to obtaining full restitution for the people of Louisiana.
However, this should not diminish the dedicated work of the countless other State Fire Marshal employees who conducted themselves as true public servants during the state’s critical times of need.”