Thinkstream founder Barry Bellue is scheduled to be arraigned Monday at 9:30 a.m. in state District Judge Mike Erwin’s courtroom, according to the East Baton Rouge Clerk of Court’s office.
Bellue, 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. Former Thinkstream CFO Morris Alexander was also arrested on the same counts.
Six months later, however, Daily Report broke the news that Bellue is now scheduled to 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 attorney general’s office declined to comment on why his charges were changed, citing “an ongoing criminal matter,” while Bellue’s attorneys cast the arrest allegations as an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”
The Baton Rouge businessman’s arrest stemmed from a criminal investigation by the Louisiana Attorney General’s 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 last week, Bellue attorneys John DiGiulio and James Manasseh claim the Thinkstream funds Bellue is accused of using for his personal benefit were actually “legitimate business expenses,” including payments to personal credit cards, his aviation company and property in Mississippi.