La. man indicted in alleged tax fraud scheme


NEW ORLEANS -- A landfill executive awaiting trial on charges he conspired with his brother-in-law to embezzle nearly $1 million from a New Orleans-based construction management company was indicted Thursday on new charges stemming from an alleged tax fraud scheme.

Dominick Fazzio, a tax preparer who also serves as chief financial officer of the River Birch landfill, is charged in the new indictment with plotting to illegally reduce the amount of federal taxes paid by the owner of an oilfield services company by more than $3.5 million.

The same indictment also brings new fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges against Fazzio's brother-in-law, Mark Titus.

Titus already has pleaded guilty to conspiring with Fazzio to embezzle money from Titus' former employer, Garner Services LLC. Many of the new charges against Titus also relate to the alleged plot to obtain fraudulent payments from Garner Services.

Titus asked to withdraw his guilty plea, but a judge refused Wednesday and sentenced him to five years in prison. Titus accused prosecutors of reneging on a secret, unwritten agreement not to seek forfeiture of his assets, but U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle said he didn't believe that claim.

James Ardoin, Titus' attorney, accused prosecutors of "piling on" and said his client wouldn't have been indicted on the new charges if he was still cooperating with the government.

"We look forward to defending against these new allegations in court," Ardoin said. "There's no way he's going to be able to cooperate. That ship has sailed."

A jury trial for Fazzio, 59, of Slidell, is scheduled to start on Oct. 22, but the new charges may require the trial to be postponed.

The River Birch landfill is at the center of a separate federal probe. Fazzio's new indictment could apply more pressure on him to cut a deal with prosecutors and cooperate in that case.

Fazzio's attorney, Arthur Lemann, said his client will continue to fight the charges.

"It appears that the government has launched a new torpedo against my client, but my response is, `Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead,'" Lemann said.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten's office recused itself from handling several cases, including the one against Titus and Fazzio, following the resignation of a veteran prosecutor who anonymously posted comments on a New Orleans newspaper's website about judges, politicians and cases on which he has worked.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone resigned earlier this year after River Birch owner Fred Heebe sought to question him under oath about whether he posted negative comments about him on nola.com, the companion website of The Times-Picayune. Heebe hasn't been charged with a crime.

Henry Mouton, a former Louisiana wildlife official, pleaded guilty last year to charges he took more than $463,000 in payoffs from a landfill company owner's businesses to reward him for his work in trying to keep a rival landfill closed. The landfill company owner is identified only as "co-conspirator `A'" in Mouton's indictment, but the document says Mouton had touted River Birch.

Titus, 49, of New Orleans, is scheduled to report to prison on Oct. 26.