NEW ORLEANS -- You could call it the great gold rush of the new millennium. Four years ago, gold was selling at more than $1,200 an ounce and climbing toward its all-time high of more than $1,900 an ounce in 2011.
At those prices, gold was getting so attractive that just about everyone wanted in on it. That includes the owner of a Slidell used car lot on Hwy. 190, a man named Eric Cazaubon. He traded in his car lot in 2010 for a gold buying shop called St. Tammany Wholesale Gold.
But he wasn’t the only one who wanted in on gold while the getting was good. Less than a week after he started his business, a past business associate named Yancie “Bubba” Moseley approached him.
“I didn’t even have the signs up yet,” Cazaubon said during an interview in his attorney’s office in recent days.
According to Cazaubon, Moseley told him he also owned a gold business called MR Precious Metals, with the “M” standing for Moseley and the “R” for Reed, as in St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed.
Moseley allegedly offered to give Cazaubon $10,000 up front to buy gold from people, then Cazaubon would keep 70 percent of profits from the sale of the gold and Mosesley and Reed would keep 30 percent.
At first, Cazaubon said he wanted nothing to do with it and that he told Moseley no, but Moseley wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“They said it would be nothing for you to lose your license for not participating in something that we want to offer you,” Cazaubon said.
“They” being Moseley, representing himself and Walter Reed.
“Bubba said to me, ‘You don't know who you're messing with. This is the DA of this parish and he's my partner. We're in business together.’ And that it would be in my best interest to do business with them,” Cazaubon recalled.
So, on August 27, 2010, Cazaubon agreed, and they signed a handwritten contract.
As promised, Cazaubon said a deposit slip and his accompanying bank statement show the $10,000 that Moseley paid him up front. Cazaubon was supposed to buy gold from people with that money and Moseley replenished it. Then MR Precious Metals gave Cazaubon his 70 percent of the profits.
“They would be picking the gold up every two or three days, as opposed to having to keep it for 30 days, they elaborated, that they would come pick up the merchandise every two or three days. So, it's not like you're gonna have it more than a couple days,” Cazaubon said.
Louisiana law requires precious metal buyers to keep the goods they buy for 30 days in case they turn out to be stolen.
Cazaubon said he was new to the business at the time and that he thought Moseley and MR Precious metals would hold the gold for the required 30 days.
Moseley wouldn’t do an interview with us about the accusations, but he briefly spoke to us on the phone. He said of the 150 accounts he buys gold from, “It’s up to them to hold it.”
When they first signed the handwritten contract, Cazaubon claims Moseley told him Reed’s position of influence was part of the deal.
“They assured me that if we ever had any problems, anything, that it would be handled. You know, nothing major. They said, if you're gonna kill somebody, we can't help you. But if you have any minor situations, minor problems that we can deal with, it can be dealt with through the system or whatever,” he said.
Reed wouldn’t respond to the allegations on camera in an interview or via questions we emailed to his spokesman.
“It's gonna be one person's word against the other. But I still think that because these are potentially serious allegations that are being made, I think Walter Reed has a responsibility to step forward and explain his actions in this case thoroughly and to answer questions about it,” said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Twelve days after signing the contract with Cazaubon, Moseley filed the articles of incorporation for MR Precious Metals: September 8, 2010.
Walter Reed officially added his name to the documents filed with the secretary of state in May 2011, but his financial disclosure filed with the Louisiana Board of Ethics for 2010 says he was a 50 percent partner of MR Precious Metals. Cazaubon said he never had direct contact with Reed, but the partnership was understood.
Cazaubon was on probation for a drug distribution charge at the time that he started doing business with MR Precious Metals. It’s a charge he still disputes as unfounded even though he pleaded guilty to it in March 2010.
Cazaubon’s probationary status is one of many reasons Goyeneche said Reed, in particular, should not have been doing business with Cazaubon.
“One of the fundamental principles of law enforcement, and that includes prosecutors, is that you do not associate with convicted felons. Walter Reed, if the accusations made by Mr. Cazaubon are true, went beyond just associating, he was a business partner,” Goyeneche said.
Just a few months into that alleged partnership, Cazaubon said the relationship went south over a ring Cazaubon bought from someone for $2,500.
He said he gave it to Moseley expecting reimbursement and his 70 percent commission on it, but Cazaubon said Reed wanted to keep it without paying added commission.
It was worth $15,000, according to Cazaubon, but after some wrangling, Moseley told Cazaubon Reed only wanted to give Cazaubon $200 for it. Cazaubon said no and that he wanted out of the partnership all together.
Cazaubon kept two deposited checks that he paid Moseley, one for $5,000 and another for $2,000. He said he added the ring to the total and considered that reimbursement for the revolving $10,000 that Moseley gave him up front to start the partnership. After it was paid, Cazaubon said he considered the partnership dissolved.
“[Moseley] told me I'm making a bad mistake. He said, ‘You really don't know what you're doing. You should think this out. You're making a bad decision over something so small.’ He says, ‘This isn't gonna turn out well.’,” Cazaubon said.
Two weeks later, on October 6, 2010, the St Tammany Sheriff’s Office, probation agents and Cazaubon said unknown other officers raided his gold-buying business.
Court transcripts of the hearing to revoke his probation say investigators heard from burglary suspects and a confidential informant that they had taken all their loot to sell to Cazaubon.
In the transcripts, St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office Detective Ray Smith told the judge that Cazaubon didn’t have any stolen gold at his store because he hadn’t been keeping it for the required 30 days, but selling it before the mandatory waiting period was up. Detective Smith is quoted as saying he didn’t know who Cazaubon was doing business with. Again, Cazaubon was in a business relationship with MR Precious Metals
During the raid on the Slidell gold shop, investigators found a stun gun in one of the desk drawers, a violation of the his probation requirement that he not own or possess dangerous weapons, and that’s what sent him back to prison.
Cazaubon was never charged with failing to keep the gold or proper records of it, but for three partially-smoked marijuana cigarettes that were found in an additional raid on his house. He still maintains they were not his, even though he pleaded guilty to the charge and went back to prison for it.
Cazaubon said his lawyer told him it was the only way to get out of jail and into St. Tammany’s work release program.
Cazaubon’s conviction is one Reed’s office never should have handled, according to Goyeneche. They should’ve recused the case, handing it off to the attorney general.
“That's why there's an Attorney General's Office. The Attorney General's Office is there to accept recusals from prosecutors,” Goyeneche said.
But even after the new marijuana conviction, Cazaubon’s legal troubles continued.
He was allowed to continue working at his car lot while in the program and at a New Orleans shoring company. Arrest records show another inmate told detectives that Cazaubon had been holding weapons at the car lot.
Detectives searched the lot and took pictures of guns found in a Chevy Malibu on the property. But throughout his appeals, he found that no one ever collected the weapons, and eventually, after time spent in state prison and the work release program in Baton Rouge, the St. Tammany District Attorney’s Office dropped the weapons charge. Cazaubon was ultimately released from prison on Nov. 4 of last year.
During the time of the new ‘gold rush’ Cazaubon said Moseley wanted to corner the market on gold buying when they first started doing business together. Cazaubon said he took Moseley to four different pawn shops to introduce him and to try and set up business arrangements similar to his own with MR Precious metals, and Cazaubon would get a cut.
“They said we want to buy diamonds and gold and stuff from everybody that you know. We want every gold shop. We want every pawn shop,” Cazaubon said.
We asked some of the pawn shops that Cazaubon said he hooked Moseley up with. Two couldn’t remember who referred them, but say they had sold gold to Moseley and MR Precious Metals.
The owners and managers of those same pawn shops said Moseley never brought Reed’s name into it. None of them would do an interview with us about it.
Cazaubon maintains Reed’s position was part of Moseley’s pitch.
“By me buying your gold you have access to the courts, you're gonna get paid cash. You don't have to show anything. No paperwork involved. We just show up, weigh the gold, give you a check or cash on the spot,” Cazaubon said.
Moseley denied even telling Cazaubon that Reed could get him out of trouble. Again, Reed himself still hasn’t answered requests for comment.
Goyeneche said Reed’s influence isn’t the only problem with the whole arrangement.
“His income with respect to some of these other businesses, whether it's the private practice of law or the gold business that he's in are ethical quicksand for a public official such as himself,” Goyeneche said.
The problem is the arrangement and situations like it could create the appearance of impropriety which prosecutors are supposed to avoid at all costs.
Moseley and Reed also have MR Precious Metals registered with the secretary of state in Mississippi to buy gold from shops on the Gulf Coast.