Thinkstream founder Barry Bellue’s arraignment has been rescheduled for unknown reasons and will now take place on Oct. 3.
Bellue was supposed to be arraigned this morning in state District Judge Mike Erwin’s courtroom in Baton Rouge. Asked why it had been rescheduled, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, declined comment.
Bellue’s attorneys John DiGiulio and James Manasseh did not return requests for comment.
The Baton Rouge businessman, whose company was forced into bankruptcy in 2015, was arrested in March on two counts of theft by fraud of more than $174,000 and two counts of criminal conspiracy.
Six months later, Daily Report broke the news that Bellue will be arraigned on a significantly lesser charge: One count of unauthorized use of a movable, having a value of $500 or less.
The new charge is minor—carrying a punishment of up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both—compared to the counts Bellue faced when he was arrested, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $50,000, or both.
The AG office has declined to comment on why his charges were changed, while Bellue’s attorneys cast the arrest allegations as an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”
Bellue’s arrest stemmed from a criminal investigation by the state AG office and the U.S. Department of Labor into the alleged diversion of Thinkstream employees’ 401(k) contributions, a portion of which were allegedly used for Bellue’s personal benefit.
In an unsigned position summary emailed to Daily Report Sept. 4, his attorneys claim the Thinkstream funds Bellue is accused of using for his personal benefit were “legitimate business expenses,” including payments to personal credit cards, his aviation company and property in Mississippi.
Bellue’s defense also argues the allegations that Bellue diverted employee retirement contributions stem from a decision in 2004 to reclassify engineers as contractors. Bellue reinstated the employees as full-time in 2005 and allegedly repaid lost contributions with bonus payments, the statement contends.