Tag: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Nakesia Washington pleads guilty to stealing from 2018 Essence Festival tourists

A Jefferson Parish judge on Wednesday (July 3) gave Nakesia Washington a 15-year sentence after she admitted to stealing money from almost 100 people who paid her to arrange their travel packages to New Orleans’ Essence Festival last year.

Washington, 42, of Harvey, who was the sole owner of OBL Travel in Marrero, pleaded guilty as charged to theft of U.S. currency valued at $25,000 or greater from 98 victims listed in the amended bill of information the state filed in court Wednesday. All the victims live out of state; a dozen of them provided letters that were read aloud in court as impact testimony in which they expressed anger over how Washington ruined their festival plans and how they suffered financially.

In accepting the plea, Judge Ellen Shirer Kovach of the 24th Judicial District Court gave Washington a 15-year prison sentence. Judge Kovach then suspended six of those years, meaning Washington’s prison term will be nine years. Of the six-year balance, Washington will serve three years on active probation, during which she must pay restitution to the victims, the judge ordered.

Judge Kovach set a restitution hearing for July 11 to determine the amount she owes the victims.

Washington accepted money from customers to arrange for their hotel reservations, VIP party passes, concert tickets, travel insurance and other festival-related purposes, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Her customers traveled to New Orleans only to learn that, in some cases, they had no hotel reservations or services for which they paid.

Washington deposited more than $240,000 into her business bank account and provided some of the services her customers sought. She also used that account to pay for an array of personal activities, from restaurants to rental car payments and gasoline to shopping trips, Sheriff’s Office economic crimes detectives found.

The Sheriff’s Office investigated the case with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Service.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Voss prosecuted the case.



New Orleans man on 4-state crime spree convicted of Kenner armed robbery

A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday (Dec. 13) found a New Orleans man guilty of robbing a Kenner business, part of a crime spree in which he committed similar heists in four states during a three-month period in early 2014.

Steven J. Rodney, 34, was convicted as charged of the armed robbery of the Walmart at 300 West Esplanade Ave., on March 7, 2014.

About 8:30 p.m., Rodney approached a 25-year-old employee working at a check-out register, lifted his shirt to reveal a pistol and then pointed it at her before returning it to his pants waistband, according to the Kenner Police Department. He ordered the employee to escort him to near an exit, where he fled with about $1,500, according to trial evidence.

Rodney arrived in the area on a commercial flight from Las Vegas on March 5, 2014, according to trial evidence. The day after, on March 6, he is accused of robbing the American Apparel store in the 3300 block of Magazine Street in New Orleans. And then, on March 8, 2014, the day after the Kenner robbery, he returned by air to Las Vegas, according to trial evidence.

Kenner and New Orleans police detectives determined that the same suspect committed both crimes. With the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, police identified Rodney as the robber.

In all, between January 2014 and March 2014, Rodney robbed businesses in Colorado, California, Nevada and Kenner and New Orleans, traveling by commercial airlines between the locations to commit the crimes.

Rodney admitted to the Jefferson Parish jury that he committed the crimes to feed his addiction to Oxycodone. He denied using a dangerous weapon, asserting he used a toy gun that shoots rubber projectiles. As such, he asserted he was not guilty of armed robbery.

The Jefferson Parish jury deliberated about an hour before returning its verdict. Judge June Berry Darensburg of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Rodney on Jan. 8.

Assistant District Attorneys Zachary Popovich and Joshua Vanderhooft prosecuted the case.