Battle against corruption in Port Arthur continues in new year

Battle against corruption in Port Arthur continues in new year

Investigators with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office continue to uncover corrupt practices of certain City of Port Arthur employees, starting with city employee Shauwn Williams in December 2014, advancing with the arrest of municipal court clerk Sharon Shelvin for theft earlier this year, and now resulting in arrests of two city department supervisors, the latest on Jan. 5.

DA’s office Investigator Marcelo Molfino says the latest arrests are just the beginning of a city staff housecleaning endeavor to eliminate corruption and that more arrests are forthcoming.

Jan. 5, former city of Port Arthur Water Meter Services Department Supervisor, 57-year-old Robert Leblanc, was arrested and formally charged by the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office. At the time of his arrest, Leblanc worked as a football referee for the Houston Chapter of the Texas Association of Sports Officials.

Leblanc is charged with five counts of theft of metal by a public servant involving 21 incidents of metal theft, each of the five charges being a third-degree felony offense. According to the allegations against him, Leblanc stole water meter parts belonging to the city of Port Arthur.

Bond was set at $60,000.

“There will be other arrests spreading out from this one,” Molfino said Jan. 5, echoing words previously expressed in November 2015 following the arrest of Port Arthur employee Carleton Edwards.

Nov. 19, 49-year-old Edwards, the former Superintendent of the Streets Division for the City of Port Arthur, was arrested on 46 counts of credit card abuse. Investigators with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and the Port Arthur Police Department say he was using a city credit card during his time with Port Arthur.

Edwards is accused of abuse of the credit card during his tenure as superintendent, spanning from July 2014 through October 2015.

After Edwards’ arrest at his residence, he was transported to the Jefferson County Jail, and his bond for the charges was set at $120,000.

Edwards’ arrest followed the arrest of municipal court clerk Sharon Shelvin who was terminated in March 2015 amid allegations of theft from the city and tampering with government documents.

March 16, Port Arthur City Manager Brian McDougal announced Shelvin’s termination as of March 12 after the Jefferson County DA’s Office reportedly uncovered evidence the clerk had been stealing fines from the municipal court and altering court documents to cover up the thefts. According to McDougal, he is not sure just how much Shelvin allegedly pilfered from the city’s till, but at the last tally he was privy to, it was estimated to be between $3,000 and $4,000.

McDougal told The Examiner then that the city would be changing hiring practices after the alleged theft was uncovered and since discovering Shelvin was an ex-felon with a previous conviction for forgery.

Shelvin will appear in court in Jefferson County on Jan. 19 for a review of status on the case against her.

Prior to Shelvin’s 2015 arrest, 41-year-old Shauwn Williams of Port Arthur was indicted on Dec. 15, 2014. Williams, who was an employee of the City of Port Arthur Housing Department, was accused of submitting fraudulent lawn care invoices for services never rendered to the city totaling nearly $7,000 between the dates Aug. 17, 2012 through Nov. 2, 2102. The alleged fraud was reportedly discovered during a review of the Housing Department’s financial records.

The indictment stated that the charges against Williams would be enhanced because of two prior theft convictions stemming from two offenses disposed of on Feb. 16, 1995 in the Jefferson County Court at Law No. 2 for which she received probation. A database search revealed she was arrested for the thefts Sept. 3, 1993, by the Groves Police Department, and Dec. 22, 1993, by the Beaumont Police Department. Williams was also charged with failure to identify relative to the Dec. 22, 1993 arrest, according to the database.

Williams faced from two to 10 years in prison on each count of theft by a public servant and up to a $10,000 fine. She reportedly cooperated with the investigation, ultimately confessing to the crimes and paying back more than $7000 in restitution in March. Because she cooperated, according to the DA, she was sentenced four years probation and 180 days in county jail, a far cry from the 20 years in prison she could have received.

Molfino said in November 2015 and reiterated Jan. 5 that people who fear corruption charges in the city of Port Arthur should come forward now or face stiffer consequences later.

Anyone who has information on crimes involving public integrity issues or other crimes is urged to call Lt. M. Blitch at the Port Arthur Police Department at (409) 983-8600, or to contact the Jefferson County District Attorney's office at (409) 835-8550 and speak to an investigator in the Public Integrity Division.

 

For previous coverage of Jan. 5 arrest: www.theexaminer.com/stories/news/former-port-arthur-department-head-charged-theft-city.

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