Walter Pierce

Cloutier saga ends with ‘no contest' plea

by Walter Pierce

Former IceGator Eric Cloutier is out of the bar business but will not be behind bars after entering a no contest plea in state court in Lafayette Thursday to tax evasion and obstruction of justice charges. The state Attorney General’s Office, which prosecuted the case, alleged that Cloutier rigged cash registers at Marley’s and Karma — two downtown Lafayette bars of which Cloutier was a part owner — in order to avoid paying sales taxes. The no contest plea allowed Cloutier to settle the matter without admitting guilt, and he told local media after the hearing that he wanted to fight the charges but felt the plea was best for himself and his family.

Cloutier was arrested in February following an investigation by the Louisiana Department of Revenue’s Criminal Investigation Division, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and the AG’s office. He initially faced more than 500 felony counts including obstruction, fraud and theft. Thursday’s plea to one count of tax evasion and one count of obstruction of justice were connected to the destruction of more than 300 tax-related documents.

While Cloutier dodges a prison sentence with the plea, the deal hits his wallet hard: According to an LDR press release, Cloutier paid a tax liability of more than $200,000 including interest and penalties to Lafayette Parish and to the state; he has been ordered to pay investigation and prosecution costs to the tune of $10,000; and he was ordered to pay more than $1,400 in fines and court costs. Cloutier also surrendered his bar licenses and will serve two years of active supervised probation.