Ex-court official faces trial

By PRESTON GILL pgill@daily-review.com

The case of former Morgan City Juvenile Services Administrator Verne Lightfoot, accused of stealing nearly $35,000 from City Court through forgery and other means, has been certified as ready for trial this week in 16th Judicial District Court.
Lightfoot, 35, of Patterson was arrested June 13, 2012, by the state police and accused of writing checks from Juvenile City Court to individuals and cashing those checks for herself. Lightfoot also used department checks to make purchases then returned the items, keeping the refunds for herself, and fraudulently purchasing thousands of dollars in gasoline, investigators said.
In addition to malfeasance in office, Lightfoot is charged with forgery and theft of goods over $1,500.
Assistant District Attorney Anthony Saleme put Lightfoot fifth on the list of cases he presented to District Judge Paul deMahy as certified ready for trial this week.
Saleme is uncertain of whether Lightfoot’s case will proceed this week since the first case on the list is the trial of Lynwood Darby Jr., who is accused of indecent behavior with a juvenile. That case could be protracted as Assistant District Attorney Erica Rose has filed her intention to use evidence of other sex crimes.
State police outline the basis of the charges with incidents beginning in 2010 and occurring through April 2012 in an affidavit of probable cause for arrest.
Marc Folse, then Morgan City police chief, told state police that Walmart contacted Juvenile City Court Judge Kim Stansbury about Lightfoot using City Court checks to purchase items and then returning the items for cash, the affidavit said.
State police uncovered four areas of suspicious activity, the affidavit said, which included the following accusations:
—Twelve Walmart transactions occurred between March 2011 and April 2012 in Franklin, Bayou Vista and Houma and totaled more than $16,000;
—Forging Stansbury’s signature on 10 checks, totaling over $11,000, written to three individuals and then cashing the checks for herself. Lightfoot is said in the affidavit to have admitted during a taped interview to the forgeries;
—Charging nearly $5,700 in fuel at Ganaway using a Morgan City city account for her personal vehicle although she was reimbursed mileage for the use of her personal vehicle. Lightfoot is said to have admitted to the fuel charges in the affidavit;
—Making seven transactions at Office Depot. She said the major purchases were for office use but an inventory did not discover the items.
Lightfoot was released after posting a personally secured $25,000 bail on the day of her arrest, Clerk of Court records show.
Lightfoot could face a prison term of up to 10 years each on the theft and forgery charges and five years for the malfeasance charge if she is convicted. In addition to possible fines on each count, Lightfoot could be ordered to pay restitution if she is convicted on the malfeasance charge.
In May 2011, during the time Lightfoot is accused of defrauding City Court, she filed a lawsuit against an insurance company claiming damages for injuries from a parking lot wreck in Morgan City, Clerk of Court records show.
That suit was eventually dropped on Aug. 22, 2011, with Lightfoot and her co-plaintiff, Catherine Mingo, ordered to pay court costs.
Lightfoot was a City of Morgan City employee from March 13, 2006, to May 14, 2012, Morgan City Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi said.

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