In the two days since fraud investigators Rhett Jeansonne and Kim Sledge were gunned down by insurance agent Melvin Lavergne new information has come to light concerning what happened in the hours leading up to that fateful afternoon.
Earlier this week state Insurance Commission Jim Donelon told reporters fraud investigators do not have the power of arrest and for that reason do not carry firearms. When the situation warrants it they rely on the state police detectives who are also trained in fraud investigation to actually make arrests.
Agents Jeansonne and Sledge had been investigating insurance agent John Lavergne since his initial arrest in 2009. They were also the same agents who were responsible for Lavergne's arrest in 2010 when Lavergne was issued a cease and desist order and told he could no longer sell insurance.
So what prompted the two agents return there this week? Eyewitness news has learned the state police received a complaint that Lavergne had resumed selling auto insurance in violation of the cease and desist order and instead of forwarding the money to the insurance company he was pocketing it.
On Tuesday agent Rhett Jeansonne phoned the state trooper who had forwarded the complaint to Jeansonne and Sledge to let him know they were in Ville Platte and intended to take a statement from the alleged victim.
And then following lunch the plan was to proceed to Lavergne's office to obtain copies of any paperwork that might substantiate the victim's allegations. We now know the agents were not concerned about Lavergne's office being open because he had partner that worked out of the same building and had not been issued any cease and desist order.
And up until that point Lavergne had continued to follow the law by going through the proper channels to appeal his cease and desist order. It wasn't until after the agents arrived at the office and announced their intentions that Lavergne must have realized what lay in store for him.
According to Commissioner Donelon's office if agents found what they were looking for it was just a matter of time before they returned with the state police and Lavergne was arrested a third time.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has ordered that American and Louisiana flags at state government buildings fly at half-staff in a show of respect for two state insurance fraud investigators who were shot to death this week.
Jindal's executive order took effect Thursday and lasts until Friday at sunset. Kim Sledge and Rhett Jeansonne had been on what appeared to be a routine assignment to collect records from suspended insurance agent John Melvin Lavergne at his office in Ville Platte on Tuesday. But Lavergne shot the investigators and then killed himself.
Two Agents Killed in Ville Platte Shooting
Community members across Ville Platte are still reacting to the double murder suicide in the city. Now the mayor is urging policy change, so that an incident like this does not happen again.
Family members who knew Melvin Lavergne say they are shocked by the events that happened Wednesday; even the city's mayor says this incident has affected the entire community.
Neighbors who knew 67 year old Melvin Lavergne still in disbelief after the business owner killed himself and two other state insurance fraud investigators in a police standoff in Ville Platte.
Records show Lavergne has a history of questionable practices. He was arrested in 2009 on four counts of false or fraudulent material information and again earlier this year on 7 counts of unfair trade practices.
Mayor Jennifer Vidrine says changes in policy need to be explored to avoid future incidents like this.
"If there are state workers coming to do their jobs they should come by city hall to get a police escort" says Vidrine.
The victim's families say they are still too distraught to speak on camera but say they will issue a statement sometime in the future.
La agent, 2 insurance fraud investigators dead
VILLE PLATTE, La. (AP) - Two unarmed Louisiana insurance fraud investigators were fatally shot Tuesday while trying to collect information from an agent who later killed himself, authorities said.
The shooting at about 1 p.m. killed Rhett Jeansonne and Kim Sledge, said state Insurance Department Commissioner Jim Donelon.
John Melvin Lavergne, who had been cited more than once on fraud allegations, then barricaded himself inside the agency where the shooting happened. More than 100 officers, including a SWAT team and negotiators, surrounded the building for hours.
Lavergne died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, said state police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Hammons. He said the fraud investigators did not have guns.
Police sent a robot into the agency that took pictures of Lavergne's body and SWAT members soon burst in to find him, said Louisiana State Police Superintendent Michael Edmonson.
The state Department of Insurance in 2009 had suspended Lavergne's insurance license and fined him $16,500, saying he provided fraudulent proofs of vehicle insurance several times. He was 64 at the time.
Donelon said in a news release then that Lavergne had been in business for almost 40 years and held both casualty, property and vehicle physical damage licenses and a life, accident and health license.
In January, state police arrested Lavergne, who was charged with unfair trade practices. In October 2010, police received complaints that Lavergne was not sending payments from his customers to their insurance companies, according to a news release. As a result, at least four customers had seven of their policies cancelled, police said.
Cynthia Doucet said she was driving on Tuesday and looked down a side street and saw Jeansonne lying outside the insurance office. Later she saw the blood on the side of his shirt. She and a friend approached with others, including several women from a nearby bank, to try to help.
"The man said he couldn't breathe and he was hollering for help," she said. "I went closer to the man and I see this lady lying inside the door and she was looking like she was dead."
Charlene Adcock, 54, of Ville Platte, said she and her boyfriend had been Lavergne's customers for many years, but stopped doing business with him after some problems.
"Both me and my boyfriend, we'd go to get our driver's license renewed, and we'd have flags on our insurance," she said. The department of motor vehicles said their insurance had been cancelled.
When they complained to Lavergne, he said he'd fix it, which he did. But then the same thing would happen, she said.
Residents say Lavergne and other members of his family owned several businesses in the city of about 8,000 some 70 miles west of Baton Rouge.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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