Former Louisiana council member found dead amid fraud case

Louisiana

BELLE CHASSE, La. (AP) — The body of a former Louisiana elected official who had been indicted on charges of fraud and tax evasion has been found in an isolated, wooded area, authorities said Thursday.

Chris Roberts, 42, was found dead of an apparent suicide late Wednesday night in Plaquemines Parish, the sheriff’s office said. No foul play was suspected. An autopsy was scheduled Thursday.

A statement from his family said Roberts had long battled depression.

Roberts served on the Jefferson Parish School Board from 1999 until 2003, then moved to the Jefferson Parish Council, where he served two terms as a district councilman and then nearly two full terms in an at-large seat. He resigned in April 2019 amid a federal investigation.

In May, a federal grand jury in New Orleans indicted him on 22 counts of fraud and seven counts of tax evasion. Prosecutors accused Roberts of defrauding a landscaping company he managed by writing checks to himself or other businesses he controlled. Among items he is accused of paying for with fraudulently obtained money are a $16,000 engagement ring and three remote-control drones.

He had pleaded not guilty and said he planned to fight the charges. His trial was scheduled to begin Aug. 10, news outlets reported.

Parish President Cyntia Lee Sheng said in a statement that they were “absolutely heartbroken” to hear of Roberts’ death.

“He was truly a dedicated public servant; … he made a lasting impact throughout Jefferson Parish,” she said. “Our thoughts and condolences are with Mr. Roberts’ family, loved ones and former colleagues.”

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