BATON ROUGE—The former head of Louisiana's property insurer of last resort pleaded guilty Monday to stealing about $29,000 from the state, including $10,000 for first-class tickets to Europe and $850 for baseball tickets.
Terry Lisotta had been scheduled to stand trial Monday in state court but pleaded guilty instead, apologizing for not doing the job expected of him. He apologized again outside the courthouse. Attorney David Courcelle cut questions short.
He wouldn't comment about District Judge Richard Anderson's statement that he probably will sentence Lisotta to 30 months at hard labor for the thefts from Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and two related insurance organizations.
It's very unusual for a first-time, white-collar conviction to bring jail when less than $100,000 was taken, said David Caldwell, an assistant state attorney general.
"I think this signals a new day," he said. "People just can't count on probation."
Anderson scheduled formal sentencing April 23. Any decision on whether Lisotta should repay the money is the judge's, Caldwell said.
Although Lisotta pleaded guilty to just one count of theft by fraud of more than $500, the plea listed all actions in a 14-count indictment handed up in December 2008.
In audits conducted in 2003 and 2006, the legislative auditor alleged that Lisotta ran up more than $285,000 in questionable expenses, including lavish meals and trips, airline tickets and retirement gifts not connected to his job.
Caldwell said the 14 cited in the indictment "were the best."
In addition to 100 baseball tickets, bought in July 2004 to help his daughter Rachel meet a cheerleading squad goal, he spent $749 on a trip to Gainesville with his wife for the LSU-Florida game that October and $1,102 on food, soft drinks, beer and other supplies for his daughter's prom night party.
He also admitted spending $10,000 more than coach fare in March 2006 for first-class seats to Europe for himself and Caryl Mathes, described in the indictment as Citizens' chief financial officer and Lisotta's girlfriend. The state covered coach class for the business trip, the indictment said.