Ex-cop pleads guilty in Desperado's extortion case

Timothy Prejean, who was charged with regulating exotic dancer permits for Carencro PD, accepted $10,000 in cash and free booze from former Desperado’s Cabaret owner James Panos.

Former Carencro Police officer Timothy Prejean changed his original plea and admitted in federal court that he received cash payments, free access to VIP rooms and free drinks from James Panos, the former owner and manager of Desperado’s Cabaret on Northeast Evangeline Thruway, which was shuttered in 2013 by law enforcement officials for illegally operating as a prostitution and drug enterprise.

At the time he accepted the payoffs, Prejean was in charge of regulating exotic dancer permits for the Carencro Police Department.

Prejean, 42, of Carencro, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard T. Haik to "interference with commerce by extortion under color of official right." According to evidence presented at the guilty plea, Prejean accepted cash payments from Panos.

Prejean, as liaison between the department and the club, processed and delivered exotic dancer licenses for Desperado’s employees, according to a press release announcing the March 25 guilty plea. Additionally, the former police officer failed to investigate reported illegal activity at Desperado’s from 2007 to December 2012. The illegal activity involved prostitution in the VIP room and drug distribution/use inside the business.

Prejean improperly received a total of $10,000 in cash and other benefits from club owners James and Jennifer Panos while in performance of his regulatory duties. Other benefits included no cover charge to enter, free access to the VIP rooms, and free drinks.

James Panos, his wife Jennifer Panos and eight other defendants were charged in a 10-count indictment on May 15, 2013, alleging racketeering conspiracy, drug conspiracy and firearms charges. The charges resulted from an investigation of drug trafficking, drug distribution, prostitution, and other illegal activity that took place at the business.

“Timothy Prejean violated his oath of office and the public’s trust by failing to uphold the law and by taking cash payments from a corrupt business,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said in announcing the guilty plea. “The people of Carencro deserve and expect more from their law enforcement officers.”

The Panoses and the remaining defendants were sentenced on Aug. 7, 2014. As part of the plea agreement, the owners agreed to forfeit illegal proceeds already seized, return proceeds illegally earned, and agreed to forfeit the Desperado’s property, including the building and land.

Prejean faces up to 20 years in prison, three years supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date was not set.