Former Insurance Co. Head Pleads Guilty to Theft

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeJustice SystemTrials and ArbitrationTrips and VacationsTravelTheft

The former head of Louisiana's propertyinsurer of last resort pleaded guilty Monday to stealing about$29,000 from the state, including $10,000 for first-class ticketsto Europe and $850 for baseball tickets.

Terry Lisotta had been scheduled to stand trial Monday in statecourt but pleaded guilty instead, apologizing for not doing the jobexpected of him. He apologized again outside the courthouse.Attorney David Courcelle cut questions short.

"He has accepted responsibility for his actions," Courcellesaid.

He wouldn't comment about District Judge Richard Anderson'sstatement that he probably will sentence Lisotta to 30 months athard labor for the thefts from Louisiana Citizens PropertyInsurance Corp. and two related insurance organizations.

It's very unusual for a first-time, white-collar conviction tobring jail when less than $100,000 was taken, said David Caldwell,an assistant state attorney general.

"I think this signals a new day," he said. "People just can'tcount on probation."

Anderson scheduled formal sentencing April 23. Any decision onwhether Lisotta should repay the money is the judge's, Caldwellsaid.

Although Lisotta pleaded guilty to just one count of theft byfraud of more than $500, the plea listed all actions in a 14-countindictment handed up in December 2008.

In audits conducted in 2003 and 2006, the legislative auditoralleged that Lisotta ran up more than $285,000 in questionableexpenses, including lavish meals and trips, airline tickets andretirement gifts not connected to his job.

Caldwell said the 14 cited in the indictment "were the best."

In addition to 100 baseball tickets, bought in July 2004 to helphis daughter Rachel meet a cheerleading squad goal, he spent $749on a trip to Gainesville with his wife for the LSU-Florida gamethat October and $1,102 on food, soft drinks, beer and othersupplies for his daughter's prom night party.

He also admitted spending $10,000 more than coach fare in March2006 for first-class seats to Europe for himself and Caryl Mathes,described in the indictment as Citizens' chief financial officerand Lisotta's girlfriend. The state covered coach class for thebusiness trip, the indictment said.

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