The Times-Picayune - EDITORIAL - April 5, 2011
New Orleans Police Capt. Michael Roussel testified in federal court last week that he didn't know he was involved in an illegal kickback scheme -- he was just a consultant. New Orleans Police Department Capt. Michael Roussel was convicted of corruption charges. The veteran officer, who arranged meetings last June between the owner of a private security firm and Entergy's head of corporate security, painted himself as a disinterested -- and naive -- bystander. "It was between them,'' he said of the deal to inflate a contract for security services in case of a hurricane. "If I thought a crime was being committed there, I would have been the first one out the door,'' he said. The jury didn't buy that story and found Capt. Roussel guilty of one count of conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud. A police officer couldn't possibly fail to understand that a deal to inflate a contract and pay kickbacks was illegal. Louis Dabdoub, a former NOPD captain who now heads corporate security for Entergy, didn't have any trouble recognizing fraud when Capt. Roussel reached out to him last year and urged him to make a deal with Joseph Branch, owner of a Texas-based security company. Mr. Dabdoub went to Superintendent Ronal Serpas, who contacted the FBI, and Mr. Dabdoub agreed to go undercover. Mr. Branch pleaded guilty last month to one count of conspiracy to defraud Entergy Services Inc. His testimony and that of Mr. Dabdoub show that Capt. Roussel was a key player. Videotapes of their meetings recorded conversations about the likelihood of a hurricane hitting the city and their hopes of getting rich from such an event. Mr. Branch even handed Mr. Dabdoub an envelope that contained $1,000 in cash. "It bothered me,'' Capt. Roussel said of the cash payout, calling it "cheeky.'' An honest officer would have been more than bothered by witnessing a payoff, but Capt. Roussel was not an honest cop. That's why it's worrisome that he headed up the Traffic Division and was in charge of many traffic and motorcycle details. The Department of Justice has called the NOPD's detail system the "aorta of corruption.'' His conviction is an important step in reform.