Fontenot honored for commitment to investigating area’s financial crimes

Published 7:08 am Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office Financial Crimes Detective Michelle “Shelli” Fontenot was recognized last week for her hard work and determination when she was awarded the 2022 Law Enforcement Officer Distinguished Service Award by the Louisiana Bankers Association.

Fontenot said she was grateful and honored to have even been nominated for the award.

“Our financial crimes unit works very hard to help the citizens and businesses of Calcasieu Parish, and any one of these detectives is worthy of this credit. I was just lucky this time,” Fontenot said.

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Fontenot has worked with CPSO since 2012 and has spent the past seven years as a detective. She said she never imagined she would be going to work with a gun and badge on her hip.

She graduated from McNeese State University with a business and finance degree and immediately went to work at the tax collector’s office, but after 13 years in that environment Fontenot said she felt a calling for a change.

That was around the same time that CPSO was firing up its financial crimes department, and Fontenot was given the opportunity to assist with those investigations. A few years later she became a full-time detective with the department.

“I think it’s still a little surprising to my family, and a little scary. To be a wife and a mother and to be leaving for work every day with handcuffs still seems strange sometimes, but they fully support me and my work and I love them for that,” Fontenot said.

The work can be long and tedious, but Fontenot said that having an interest in numbers and finances helps drive her passion for the job.

“I love putting the pieces together and being able to help someone who has experienced a financial theft or loss. Sometimes the loss is small, but other times it is a large amount and devastating; those are the cases that make you feel like you truly made a difference in their lives when you can find the person responsible,” she said.

The list of crimes that fall under Fontenot’s purview are many, but most consist of identity theft, forgery and bank fraud through scams. Surprisingly, she said the victims in those cases often turns out to be banking institutions.

“In most circumstances, the banks will issue a refund to the customer so then it’s the banking institution that we work with in those investigations. Everyone on the financial crimes team has developed great working relationships with our local banks here and without them being such willing partners with us in these cases we wouldn’t be able to accomplish what we have. Those great working relations make all the difference,” Fontenot said.

It is that great working relationship with local banks that led to Fontenot’s award. Each year, the Louisiana Bankers Association recognizes outstanding law enforcement officers who assist banks with the investigation of financial crimes. Fontenot was one of two recipients to receive the award, which is nominated on by bankers from across the state.

Sheriff Tony Mancuso described Fontenot’s work as “complex and tedious,” but said her commitment to her work makes her stand out from the rest.

“Det. Fontenot is a hard-working deputy who is committed to investigating financial crimes for the victims in our parish. I am so pleased she is being recognized for her hard work and commitment to our community. Financial crimes are complex and tedious and take a dedicated investigator such as Detective Fontenot. I am proud to say she works for the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office,” Mancuso said.