By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany news bureau
COVINGTON – A Covington physician who lost over $123,000 over a three-year period when a former bookkeeper embezzled money from him believes a new court ruling in favor of the defendant will make it virtually impossible for him to ever see the money again.
22nd Judicial District Court Judge Reginald Badeaux ruled this past week to convert the former criminal case against Shantel Judah to a civil case, and terminate her probation. That means any possible jail time for failure to repay the stolen money is off the table and the chance for Dr. Albert Tydings to recoup the lost revenue will probably never happen, the doctor claims.
Tydings, an OB-GYN doctor in western St. Tammany who has delivered thousands of babies during four decades of practicing, has been outspoken about the case from the beginning, openly criticizing Badeaux for what he said has been “turning the tables to make her look like the victim and to punish me for speaking out against the judge.”
Judah pled guilty on June 22, 2015 to seven felony counts related to embezzling the money from Tydings from 2012 to 2014. Badeaux’s initial court ruling in the case ordered her to repay the $123,000 over a five year period of time, or face up to 10 years in prison.
Since that time, Tydings said Judah has paid $8,000 that she got from a retirement fund Tydings set up and funded while she worked for him. She made a handful of sporadic monthly payments in more than two years and now has a balance of $112,780.
Judah returned to court to face Badeaux since she was not meeting the re-payment requirements, previously with the threat of being put in jail. But each time the conditions were reset and Judah was given more time to pay, still with the threat of jail time hanging over her head. The recent ruling by Badeaux withdrew any possibility of jail time by changing the case to a civil matter, meaning the only thing now facing Judah is to repay the final $112,780 owed to Tydings.
With the Oct. 19 court date approaching, Tydings sent a letter to the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana with a complaint against Badeaux, hoping to avert the change from a criminal to civil case that was scheduled that day.
In the letter he pleaded for the case to be reviewed since he claimed Badeaux was doing little to support the true victim in the case–himself.
“If there was ever a case to dissect and inspect for possible gross injustice to the victim in the name of undeserved leniency given to this completely unremorseful, unapologetic criminal, the case of Tydings vs. Judah should be reviewed,” he wrote. “At this point it is quite obvious to me as well as to others I cannot get a fair minded, unbiased legal decision from Judge Badeaux.”
The commission responded to the letter by telling Tydings, “the complaint does not allege judicial misconduct within the scope of our jurisdiction.”
At an earlier hearing on August 16 when Judah was called back to court for failing to make any payments for six months, Assistant DA Blair Alford offered evidence showing Facebook postings of vacations by Judah to Mexico in May and Florida in June.
The result of that hearing was that Badeaux reduced her monthly restitution payment to $690 a month and changed the five year repayment requirement to 15 years.
In the October 19 hearing when Badeaux changed the conviction to a civil case it left the burden on Tydings to recoup the money himself. The doctor said he will have to find out where she is working and go through the timely and costly steps to garnish her wages, but if she changes jobs he will have to start the process all over again.
“I stood up for myself in this case from the beginning and it seems like the judge has gone out of his way to punish me for that,” Tydings said. “The judicial system has been worthless to me. Really it is shameful to see the way I have been treated—the judge has somehow made her out to be the victim.”
Tydings said his biggest problem in the case is that “Judah has not only shown no remorse and never apologized, but she has continually blamed the theft on others in the office. She is not sorry for anything she did and now I’ll never get the money back.”
It was January, 2014 when Tydings began to notice missing money while he was getting his taxes done. He discovered delinquent business credit card accounts, unpaid bills, and unauthorized charges on his American Express and Chase bank cards, and could not locate any cash deposits made by the business for 2011, 2012 and 2013.
After contacting the Sheriff’s Office, investigators confirmed his findings and found thousands of dollars of unauthorized credit card charges, and checks that had been written to the clinic, but cashed by Judah, a district attorney spokesman reported.
The investigation also found that Judah had used Tydings’ bank account to pay some of her personal credit card bills, she increased her salary by at least $441 per pay period, paid for health insurance for herself and her family, paid her phone bill and gave herself a car allowance, none of which Tydings had approved.
Additionally, Judah called in prescription medication for pain pills for herself, the Sheriff’s Office investigation found.
Badeaux allowed Judah to avoid jail time since a risk assessment used by judges to determine appropriate sentences found “she was a low risk to offend again.”
Tydings referenced a recent Harris Poll that showed Louisiana ranked 50th in the United States in judicial competency and fairness. He said that his case is a perfect example of what victim’s really face in the state.
“All the burden is now on me to collect this money and she will get off with nothing more to worry about,” he said. “She stole all that money and spent it on so many things to have fun, pay her bills and live a good life. She even bought a Hummer she was driving to work.”
“This woman made every effort to ruin this practice,” Tydings added. “She didn’t pay our bills and then shredded bills and claims that could have helped us collect money to pay our bills. I am fortunate I still have a practice.”
Tydings said he continues to work at his practice trying to recover from the loss.
“It’s still hard not to blame myself for not noticing,” he said. “Looking back, there were a lot of red flags—like the new Hummer she was driving. I’m struggling with the devastation you feel when you are betrayed this badly by someone you trusted.”
Judah was hired in 2004 by Tydings and had independent audits performed on her bookkeeping for six years before he stopped hiring the auditors.
“I felt comfortable enough with her and thought I could trust her,” he said. “That was a mistake on my part and I hope other business owners see what happened to me and learn from it.
“The disappointing thing is the way I have been treated by our judicial system,” he said. “I have worked here for 37 years and when Katrina hit I slept at the hospital here for 10 days to help out. Then when I have something like this happen I’m treated like I am the person who did something wrong.”
Badeaux did not return phone calls seeking a comment on the criticism from Tydings.