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Ex-La. Commissioner Sentenced

December 16, 2000

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Louisiana’s former elections commissioner was sentenced to five years in prison Friday in a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme that allegedly fueled his gambling addiction.

Jerry Fowler, 60, was sentenced in both state and federal court as part of a plea deal. He will serve concurrent sentences in a federal prison.

Fowler reached an agreement with prosecutors on Nov. 27, the day his trial was to have started, essentially acknowledging he bilked the state out of $900,000 between 1991 and 1999. He is believed to have made roughly $3 million on the schemes.

Fowler bought voting machines, unneeded parts and maintenance services for inflated prices from contractors who also participated in the scheme. In some cases he purchased parts that were owned by the state but shipped off to the contractors to send back to Louisiana. The scheme cost the state an estimated $8.6 million.

In an odd twist, the machines worked well and the statewide voting machine system was sometimes cited as a model for the nation.

Fowler was indicted in 1999 in the midst of a re-election campaign for the office he held for 20 years. Two months later, he lost a primary election.

Fowler pleaded guilty in state court to charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and malfeasance in office. He pleaded guilty in federal court to three counts of filing false income tax returns.

He was not fined, but the federal plea agreement called for him to repay the Internal Revenue Service back taxes on the illegal income he failed to report between 1996 and 1998.

State prosecutors said last month they would seek $1 million in restitution, although they were uncertain whether Fowler had the means to pay it.

``Everybody knows he hasn’t got any money,″ his lawyer Richard Crane told reporters after court, saying it went to gambling.

Crane said Fowler would try to enroll in an addiction treatment program in prison but did not elaborate.

U.S. District Judge James Brady ordered Fowler to report to a Beaumont, Texas, prison on Feb. 5.

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