Former Catfish Fest chair accused of stealing from church

St. Gertrude reported more than $12K stolen

Wayne Guillot Jr. has appeared on CrimeStoppers as a fugitive accused of paying himself more than $12,000 in fraudulent receipts from the St. Gertrude Catholic Church in Des Allemands.

The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office is seeking Guillot, whose last known address was Autin Lane in Des Allemands, in connection with money he allegedly took as chairman of the Louisiana Catfish Festival.

Sheriff Greg Champagne said Guillot apparently submitted fraudulent invoices for services and products to the festival that he did not provide.

St. Gertrude’s Father Ray Hymel, who also serves as festival president, said Guillot’s prior arrest with similar charges in Lafayette raised concerns that he had also taken money from the festival.

Earlier this year, Guillot was arrested by the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office and charged with theft.

“When he was arrested in January of this year, for other things, we basically went through church records and found fraudulent receipts he presented for reimbursement,” Hymel said. “We contacted the Diocese and lawyers, and they instructed us to compile the receipts, which were reviewed. The parish went ahead under advisement of the lawyers to press charges … to add to what already was happening with him. It was probably May or June.”

Hymel estimated Guillot allegedly stole $10,000 to $15,000, which was discovered after he had been dismissed as festival chairman in December of last year. No chairman has been named in his place since this incident.

The church was insured for the loss, and Hymel said the money has been recouped.

“It certainly is unfortunate and we certainly did not foresee this,” he said. “However, we are very blessed in that Archdiocese insurance covers these things and we have recouped our loss and money that was taken dishonestly. This was all under the guidance of our lawyers and we’re okay.”Otherwise, the parish would have had to absorb the loss, which Hymel said would have been challenging since the festival had lost popularity since it was established 40 years ago. However, he said this year’s festival marked a rebound and was featured in a recently aired episode of the nationally televised show, “Flip My Food.”

“We certainly don’t want the Catfish Festival to lose its popularity as it has over the last 40 years, and we’re glad the 2015 festival was very successful and very happy that we were able to have a good festival with no problems,” Hymel said. “By that time, the news had gotten out and people were questioning, but I was straightforward with them and telling them what our lawyers were telling us to do.”

Guillot had a longstanding history with the Catfish Festival.

According to Hymel, he had worked with family cooking dishes like jambalaya and pastalaya at the festival in a food booth more than five years.

“He knew the runnings of the fair since his involvement so when a new chair was needed in 2014, he was one of two considered and the other person was chosen,” Hymel said.

“But that person didn’t work out well only after a couple of months and he voluntarily resigned. Then the [festival] board approached Guillot to serve and he agreed.”

Hymel said they have become more cautious in ensuring there are better checks and balances in festival dealings.“We have been very blessed as far as our results from this past year,” he said. “We just look forward to more and more. The festival goes on.”

 

About Anna Thibodeaux 1944 Articles
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