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October 31, 2014

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Edwards trial: Candy’s accounts, Dozier’s debts and the return of T. Wong

BATON ROUGE, La. - Cash won, cash lost and cash deposited into his wife-to-be's bank account were the topics Thursday as former Gov. Edwin Edwards spent a third day on the witness stand in his federal racketeering trial.

In a scene reminiscent of his 1985 corruption trial, federal prosecutor Jim Letten questioned Edwards about his gambling habit and his penchant for using aliases when in Las Vegas.

Letten showed Edwards reports on currency transactions that indicated Edwards paid $243,600 in cash to casinos in 1990. On a few of the reports, Edwards signed the name Ed Neff.

Edwards explained that he has used several different monikers on his gambling trips, including "T. Wong" and "Muffaletta."

"I'm probably the only person in America who can sign with a fictitious name. That's how good my honor is," Edwards said.

Prosecutors have been using Edwards' history of paying cash for gambling debts and big-ticket items to bolster their claims that he took cash payoffs in return for help in obtaining riverboat casino licenses.

Edwards, his son, Stephen, state Sen. Greg Tarver and four others are accused of taking part in a series of extortion and bribery schemes involving the licensing of riverboat casinos before and after Edwards fourth and final term ended in 1996.

In 1985, while trying Edwards in connection with several health care investment deals, federal prosecutors brought up evidence of his paying off gambling debts with huge amounts of cash, and his signing debt "markers" for casino chips with aliases including T. Wong.

That trial ended with a hung jury but Edwards was found innocent the following year in a retrial.

On Thursday, Letten showed Edwards a series of 1993 deposit slips that show about $109,000 in cash was deposited into the account of his then-girlfriend, Candy Picou, the woman he married in 1995.

Edwards said the money was to pay for the Gulf Shores, Ala., condominium they were building. She was to be the owner, Edwards said.

"I was building up her account," Edwards said.

Later, defense lawyers and prosecutors agreed to put in the court record that Edwards put $18,000 in Candy's account in 1994, $38,500 in 1995 and another $38,500 in 1996.

Letten also showed two receipts that showed Edwards paid about $14,800 in cash for jewelry for Candy Edwards. Another receipt showed that $1,300 had been spent on pearl earrings.

Letten asked if Edwards remembered making the payment.

"I remember not making it and having a big argument with Candy when I found out about it," Edwards said.

Prosecutors also showed checks that were written to cash from Gil Dozier, a former state Agriculture Commissioner who was convicted in 1980 of extortion and racketeering and sentenced to probation. The cash was deposited into Candy Edwards' account, Edwards said.

Edwards said Dozier paid him by check several times for gambling debts incurred from Thursday night poker games Edwards hosted at the governor's mansion while he was in office. One of the checks was for $23,200, prosecutors said.

A financial expert had testified earlier for the government that Edwards spent nearly two times the amount of money he reported having from 1994 through 1996.

Edwards' attorney, Dan Small, said the expert's figures were inflated and did not take into account all of the cash Edwards may have had at his home from previous years.

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