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A civil lawsuit filed in 2004 by the Coleman family, former owners of several RV and car dealerships in Baton Rouge, La., prompted an FBI investigation resulting in the federal indictment of an employee Thursday (March 23).
The Advocate reported that Lesa Callegan — the former office manager and controller for Coleman Toyota — faces one count of making a false statement to a bank, which carries up to 30 years in prison, and four counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Callegan is accused of lying to a bank and another financial institution to get millions of dollars in loans for the dealership.
The indictment is the first to emerge in a 16-month FBI investigation into allegations that Callegan and former General Sales Manager Louis “Chip” Bignar looted $5 million from the dealership.
That probe was prompted by a civil lawsuit the Coleman family filed in November 2004 in Baton Rouge state court. In that case — which still is pending — they claim the losses forced them to sell their Coleman Toyota and Coleman RV dealerships.
The family sold its business — which had annual sales of $60 million — to All Star Automotive Group in October 2004. They also shed their Isuzu truck and RV dealerships.
Around that same time, Robert E. Coleman also asked federal and state law enforcement agencies to investigate Bignar, and urged the Louisiana Recreational and Used Motor Vehicle Commission to revoke his license.
Only Callegan is named in Thursday’s indictment. Callegan oversaw the dealership’s finances, and, in addition to her salary, earned incentive pay based on Coleman Toyota’s profits.