Mizell Jr., 8 employees indicted in unemployment benefit scheme

Published 10:27 am Saturday, April 19, 2014

Chamico President Charles “Chuck” Mizell Jr. and eight of his employees were indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday, just three months after the construction company located just outside of Bogalusa was searched by a team of FBI agents.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the group is facing mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud charges stemming from an alleged scheme involving unemployment benefits.

Mizell, 44, is a resident of Bogalusa and son of Bogalusa Mayor Charles Mizell, who owned Chamico prior to running for office.

Also indicted Thursday were James Creel, 48, of Bogalusa; William Darryl King, 47, of Angie; Tenille Nielson, 34, of Franklinton; Jacqueline Myers, 27, of Franklinton; Jerry Athey, 56, of Bogalusa; David Lowe, 48, of Bogalusa; Terry Castilow, 48, of Bogalusa; and Roger Nadeau, 51, of Linn Mo.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mizell conspired with the employees to defraud the Louisiana Workforce Commission of money the employees were not entitled to receive. The indictment says the employees submitted fraudulent unemployment claims while working for Chamico, and Mizell signed off on the claims.

Mizell would then cash company checks and pay the group the difference instead of paying them their full salaries, thus saving the company money, the indictment alleges.

The alleged crimes occurred between Sept. 24, 2009 and Jan. 11, 2014, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A spokesman said Friday there are numerous counts of mail fraud charged against the defendants. The full indictment listing specific counts was not immediately available, however, due to the indictments being handed down late in the afternoon and offices being closed on Good Friday.

Those indicted will be issued summonses to make their initial appearance in federal court in New Orleans within the next couple of weeks, the spokesman said.

When the FBI searched the company in January, the elder Mizell said he had no idea what agents were looking for. He said then his son said he had no idea, either.

If convicted the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison on the conspiracy count and 20 years in prison on each of the mail fraud counts. The defendants also face a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release as to each count.

The case was investigated by the Department of Labor – Office of the Inspector General and the FBI, with assistance from the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily K. Greenfield.