Reporters and editors of The Times-Picayune watched the newspaper's biggest story of the year unfold last week -- on television. WDSU-TV investigative reporter Richard Angelico scooped the Pulitzer Prize-winning daily on the arrest of the T-P's former auditor on charges that he embezzled $1.2 million from the paper during a five-year period.
Arthur A. Anzalone of Kenner is free on a $50,000 bond after being booked Aug. 15 in Orleans Parish on one count of felony theft. The 48-year-old, who also is a professional cat breeder, could not be reached for comment by press time.
Times-Picayune editor Jim Amoss says the company has no comment beyond what appeared in the paper's Aug. 16 story on the case, written by reporter Natalie Pompilio. Pompilio quoted an unidentified spokesman for the paper as declining to answer questions about Anzalone's departure from the paper, "saying only that the company 'is cooperating with an ongoing investigation by the Orleans Parish district attorney's office'."
Sources say Anzalone left the paper abruptly in December 2000, ending a 28-year career at the T-P. The time frame is key because T-P reporters would have had a two- to six-month jump on the story, insiders say.
Also according to those sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, some T-P employees greeted Angelico's scoop with embarrassment, resignation and rationalization. All want to know how the paper will cover the story in coming weeks. Some are chagrined that the paper's own story on the case was given such scant coverage and remote placement. Those insiders also acknowledge that auditors for public agencies or private corporations who get arrested on similar charges often make the front page of the paper or its Metro section.
Other inside sources say the paper's lawyers took over the story, persuading editors that the paper could not report the story until an arrest was made. By the time Anzalone was arrested at his home, Angelico had already broadcast the story on the 6 o'clock news.
If convicted, Anzalone faces 10 years in prison. First hired by the paper in 1970, he had served as its auditor since 1980. He allegedly embezzled the money between January 1995 and September 2000, by using checks payable to the paper to cover his petty cash deposit shortfalls, by creating fictitious expense reimbursements, and by misappropriating cash withdrawn from a bank and cash received from the sale of company vehicles.
Raymond Massett, vice president and general manager of The Times-Picayune filed the paper's complaint against Anzalone in May with the Economic Crime Unit of the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office. Massett could not be reached at press time.