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Court records: Kickbacks paid by law enforcement officers

TAMPA — Corporations formed by two prominent law enforcement officers paid kickbacks to Rooms to Go's security director for work at the furniture retailer, public records and federal court documents show.

The corporations were formed by Lt. Col. Louis Leinhauser, former deputy director of law enforcement at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Hillsborough sheriff's detective Philippe Dubord, records show.

Leinhauser retired from his $105,000-a-year job as the No. 2 law enforcement agent with the department in 2009. Federal records indicate the kickbacks were paid while he still worked for the state as a sworn officer.

Leinhauser, 59, of Tallahassee also worked as a detective at the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office from 1987 to 1999. He did not return calls for comment.

Dubord, 51, of Tampa is a longtime detective with the Sheriff's Office who currently earns about $75,000 a year and sometimes assists the FBI on child pornography cases.

Neither Leinhauser nor Dubord has been charged with any wrongdoing.

Dubord, contacted at the Sheriff's Office Wednesday, said his company was cleared in a civil lawsuit but would not elaborate. The St. Petersburg Times could not find a record of the lawsuit, and Dubord refused to say where the case was filed.

"Obviously, I'm at work and can't talk about this," Dubord said. "The matter was cleared up."

Prosecutors in the office of Robert O'Neill, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, declined to comment on their investigation.

The story of those kickbacks is told in federal court documents filed in criminal cases against two former Rooms to Go security directors and former Hillsborough sheriff's detectives: James B. Loftus, 59, and Brian W. Ouellette, 50.

Both have pleaded guilty in Tampa federal court to charges they got $1 million in kickbacks while at Seffner-based Rooms to Go.

Loftus quit his job with the sheriff in 1996 to join Rooms to Go as its director of security. Overburdened by his workload, Loftus later hired Ouellette, whom he knew through the Sheriff's Office, to take over as security director while Loftus began overseeing protection for the company's top executives in Atlanta, court records show.

Loftus and Ouellette admitted they engaged in two separate kickback schemes, federal court records show. In the first, Loftus got $238,000 in kickbacks and Ouellette $550,000 from a security firm, Security Alliance of Florida, hired to provide guards for the retailer.

The second scheme involved just Ouellette, records show.

In that one, Ouellette collected kickbacks from a handful of private security vendors hired to collect information from Rooms to Go employees acting as confidential informants in company theft investigations, court records show.

Among those vendors was Big Bend Associates Inc., a Tallahassee security firm that Leinhauser incorporated in 2001. A second vendor was BPD Security Consulting Group Inc., created by Dubord in 2003.

These and other vendors paid Ouellette an additional $254,336 in kickbacks from 2003 until 2007.

"To carry out this scheme and artifice to defraud, (Ouellette) solicited, received and accepted kickbacks from the outside … vendors" for the work from Rooms to Go, Ouellette's plea agreement said.

Prosecutors say Ouellette tried to hide the kickbacks from Rooms to Go by preparing "sham" invoices addressed to the vendors which "fraudulently sought payment for 'consulting' services," the plea agreement said.

The vendors, in turn, made their payments to a dummy corporation, Wiley Management, that Ouellette had created just for that purpose. Wiley is Ouellette's middle name.

"In exchange for these kickbacks, (Ouellette) provided favorable action to the outside … vendors in his official position with RTG, including by employing them" in the program to monitor the confidential informants, the plea agreement said.

Other vendors besides Leinhauser and Dubord's paid kickbacks, records show. These corporations appear to be linked to people with ties to Ouellette, including relatives.

Everything collapsed for Ouellette when Loftus, battling severe depression and burdened by the illegal activity, confessed to Rooms to Go's general counsel in March 2007, Loftus' attorney said in court filings.

Both men are cooperating with federal investigators against other potential targets who are not named in court papers, their plea agreements say.

Loftus, who lives in the Atlanta area, has been sentenced to two years in prison.

Ouellette, a Hillsborough resident, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to charges earlier this week.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3432.

Court records: Kickbacks paid by law enforcement officers 03/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 11:11pm]
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