NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans attorney Nicole Burdett, co-defendant in the tax fraud case against Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams, was arrested Wednesday in Baton Rouge by the state attorney general’s office, according to an arrest document.
Burdett’s attorney Mike Magner confirmed that his client turned herself in to authorities Wednesday morning and was released on her own recognizance a short time later.
Magner confirmed that Burdett self-surrendered after hearing that an arrest warrant was issued related to Medicaid fraud. The specific charges, according to the arrest warrant, are government benefits fraud and filing false public records.
In a statement, Magner wrote, “Ms. Burdett vehemently denies these allegations which stem from a miscommunication when she was transitioning her children to private health insurance. We are hopeful that when the Attorney General‘s office understands the full facts of the matter that they will decline prosecution in this matter. The AG‘s office has offered to meet with us in the very near future and we believe that we will be able to explain this unfortunate misunderstanding.”
“Once Ms. Burdett learned of this matter, she immediately surrendered herself upon learning about her arrest warrant,” Magner said.
The allegations stem from an application Burdett filed for Medicaid in 2018, according to an affidavit for the arrest warrant signed by Kevin Whitehead of the AG’s Louisiana Bureau of Investigation.
Burdett claimed that she had a monthly income of $2,000 and her husband earned $1,709 every two weeks, Whitehead wrote. Yet the couple’s joint tax returns revealed that they had $276,820 in income that year.
Throughout 2018, Burdett allegedly received improper Medicaid benefits worth $8,970, according to the affidavit.
The new allegations against Burdett parallel what prosecutors have already laid out in her federal tax fraud case.
There, prosecutors sought to introduce evidence about Burdett’s years of Medicaid coverage to a jury, arguing it showed she habitually lied to government agencies for financial gain. A district court judge denied that request, stating that it would merely confuse jurors about the charges at hand.
Burdett and Williams, partners in Williams’ law firm, are scheduled for trial in federal court on July 18 on 11 counts of tax fraud. The pair, former law firm associates, are accused of conspiring to cheat on Williams’ taxes by inflating business deductions over a five-year period.
Williams has consistently and vigorously proclaimed his innocence, blasting the charges as politically motivated.
With the fresh new allegation against Burdett by the Attorney General’s office, it is unclear how that might affect the federal case, including the July 18 trial date.
WWL-TV has contacted the Attorney General’s office for more information, but has not heard back.
In an unusual twist, Williams predecessor as New Orleans DA, Leon Cannizzaro, is now co-director of Attorney General Jeff Landry’s criminal division. It is not clear what role, if any, Cannizzaro played in the new case against Burdett.
This is a developing story, so check back with WWL-TV for updates.