- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - St. Bernard Parish President Dave Peralta is accused of using campaign donations to gamble in New Orleans-area casinos and lying about it to the grand jury that indicted him Wednesday.

A grand jury in East Baton Rouge Parish, where Peralta’s campaign finance reports were filed, handed up the indictment on three counts each of perjury and filing false campaign reports.

“I believe this is a political witch hunt,” Peralta told reporters outside the courthouse.

Earlier Wednesday, he testified for about two hours, Nola.com ‘ The Times-Picayune reported (https://bit.ly/1KMuTxV).

He declined comment before entering the grand jury room. Defense attorney Martin Regan confirmed that Peralta was testifying with an eye to averting indictment.

District Judge Trudy White set Peralta’s bond at $15,000 and gave him until noon Thursday to report to jail. Regan said he will comply.

The indictment said Peralta used an ATM card to withdraw cash from the campaign account at Harrah’s of New Orleans, Hollywood Casino, the Silver Slipper, and Grand Casino Biloxi, and used it to gamble, the indictment alleged.

He “either fraudulently reported those ATM withdrawals as campaign dinners/meetings that never occurred, or intentionally failed to report them altogether in an effort to conceal these illicit campaign expenditures that supported his gambling habit,” the indictment said.

Peralta has said casino expenses were campaign related and he did not use campaign money to gamble.

“Did I use my campaign monies at the casinos for meetings and lunches and dinners? Yes, I did … And there is nothing illegal about that. People do it all the time,” he said in February.

Wednesday’s indictment is the third since a state criminal investigation began in late 2013.

A felony stalking charge, accusing him of sending threatening email messages to his ex-wife, Sharon Schaefer, is pending in St. Tammany Parish.

St. Bernard Parish prosecutors dropped a sexual battery charge accusing him of raping Schaefer when they were married, though a state prosecutor has said another St. Bernard Parish grand jury is looking at that case and public corruption charges.


Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com

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