Murphy Painter indicted on federal charges - Montgomery Alabama news.

Murphy Painter indicted on federal charges

Murphy Painter Murphy Painter

The former commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday.

Murphy Painter, 59, of Gonzales has been formally charged with computer fraud, making false statements and aggravated identity theft.

State Inspector General Stephen Street was behind a nearly five-year investigation involving former Commissioner Painter.

Street said it started with a complaint from former ATC employee, Kelli Suire, who claimed Painter was stalking her. He said investigators later found Painter used state and Federal Bureau of Investigations databases to get personal information about Suire and her attorney, Jill Craft.

"We found a print out of Jill Craft with a photo and a map quest on the ATC offices to her house," Street said.

Streets said Painter did not stop there. Investigators found Painter ran illegal searches on 1,150 people and the people who lived near them.

US Attorney Don Cazayoux said if Painter is convicted of the above charges, he could face a maximum of 82 years in prison and fines up to more than $12 million.

The indictment alleges Painter made false statements to FBI agents. He is accused of using law enforcement databases for "non-official criminal justice purposes."

The indictment also claims Painter exceeded his authorized access and obtained person identification information on several people throughout the area. 

Investigators said between February 25, 2005 and August 13, 2010 Painter abused his power, mostly looking for personal information about females in the New Orleans, Gonzales and Baton Rouge areas.

"Mr. Painter repeatedly used the law enforcement power of his office to invade the privacy of innocent citizens who had committed no crime and were not under investigation," said Inspector General Stephen Street. "In several instances that we identified, Mr. Painter physically went to the homes of these people and conducted covert surveillance upon them and their neighbors. That is an outrageous abuse of authority, and it was entirely necessary and appropriate for the United States Attorney and the Inspector General to take strong action to put a stop to it."

Painter resigned from his position as head of ATC in August 2010. Shortly after, allegations surfaced that he conducted illegal criminal background checks.

A report released in February 2011 alleged Painter performed "more than 1,500 inquiries to obtain restricted information about citizens who do not hold ATC permits and do not appear in the ATC database."

Among the people he allegedly performed illegal checks on are: Baton Rouge attorney Jill Craft, former WAFB reporter Keitha Nelson, Wendy Vitter (the wife of U.S. Senator David Vitter) and former LSU quarterback Tommy Hodson.

The report also detailed allegations he sexually harassed Kelli Suire, a former employee who worked for him at ATC.

In his response at the time, Painter said the allegations he violated state and federal law "are false and misguided." Painter added it was apparent the Inspector General's Office was "attempting to create a crime where no crime ever existed."

Painter nor his attorney, Frank Holthaus, could be reached for comment.

Copyright 2012 WAFB. All rights reserved.

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