The Criminal, the Justice and Business in Louisiana
Gary Young was indicted in April, 1990 for his involvement in airlifting three loads of marijuana totaling more than 2,500 pounds from Belize to Louisiana between May, 1985 and January, 1986. The marijuana was air-dropped into Whiskey Bay, southwest of New Orleans, and recovered by ship for distribution.
Young, then 36, had previously served more than a year in prison on a 1981 cocaine charge and was now facing 15 years on marijuana charges and 5 years on interstate travel.
In the mid-1980s, after being released from prison, Young became involved in the newly-rebuilt Bart's Seafood Restaurant and Bar, located on the Lakefront in New Orleans' West End, on land leased from the Orleans Levee Board. At the time of his indictment, he was general manager of Bart's and a business associate of its former owner, John Yemelos, a Jefferson Parish land developer.
One of Yemelos' acquaintances was John H. Ross, who had served on several politically-appointed boards for more than 10 years. Ross was vice president of the Orleans Levee Board, a member of the New Orleans Aviation Board and a consultant for the Regional Planning Commission. Ross was also a longtime friend of Judge Robert Collins of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and had boasted about his access to the judge and ability to influence him.
Ross knew how to get things done in New Orleans. Young testified that in 1986 or 1987, he paid Ross $12,000 to get a reduction in Bart's lease payments to the Levee Board, and in 1987 he paid him $10,000 to have the Levee Board build a parking lot for Bart's.
Young also testified that on September 14, 1989, he met with Ross and floated the idea of offering a bribe to get leniency from Collins, who Young believed would be adjudicating his marijuana case. Young did not pursue the issue with Ross for the next few weeks, but his wheels kept turning.
On September 27, 1989 Young signed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors and agreed to work as an informant to help build drug cases against others. Young subsequently met with Yemelos to discuss the possibility of bribing Collins through Ross. Federal authorities were then alerted, and the machinery was set into motion that would lead to the eventual indictments of Ross and Collins on charges of bribery, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy.
As expected, Young was indicted in April, 1990, the case went to Collins, Young pleaded guilty before the judge that May, and on August 8, 1990, Collins sentenced Young to 3-1/2 years in prison. Prosecutors had argued for a prison term of 8 years.
Young had been given $100,000 in marked bills by the FBI to pass to Ross, which Young did over the 10-month period of September 29, 1989 to August 10, 1990 while wearing a wire to tape his conversations with the unsuspecting Ross. Those taped conversations provided the story line of the government's case against Ross and Collins while the marked cash recovered from their possession provided the smoking gun.
According to court testimony, Collins had received more than $17,500 of which $16,500 was largely found in his chamber's locked credenza. About $70,000 was recovered from Ross' real estate office, and about $12,000 was unaccounted for.
Collins never took the stand to explain the circumstances by which he came into possession of that money.
Collins and Ross were convicted on June 29, 1991. That September, Collins was sentenced to serve 82 months in a Panama City, Florida, federal prison, and Ross was sentenced to 88 months in a New Mexico prison. In a separate rehearing of his case, Young's sentence was reduced to 3-years in prison. John Yemelos was never charged. Ross died August 1, 1995, at age 63, having served 43 months of his prison term .
On March 25, 2014, Gary Young, now 62, contacted Bernofsky by telephone to complain that the presence of this Web page and others was detrimental to his social and business relationships. He requested that pages bearing his name be removed from Tulanelink in exchange for a financial consideration. The following day, Bernofsky responded to Young's request.
- "Real Estate Pioneer, Planner John H. Ross is Dead at 63," The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, August 3, 1995, Metro, p. B4.
- Details of the Collins case can be found in the series of articles published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune from April, 1990 through August, 1993, authored primarily by Steve Cannizaro and secondarily by Susan Finch, John McQuaid and others.