KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- If Leslie Anne Janous wanted to throw a birthday party for her teenage daughter, the cost of which could feed a third-world country, who cares? It's her money to waste, right?
Or was it?
The over-the-top birthday party Janous put on for her then-15-year-old daughter in 2006 may serve as Exhibit A for federal prosecutors as they mount a $4.5 million embezzlement case against the former bookkeeper for a West Knoxville brokerage firm.
Janous was arraigned Friday on a 13-count wire fraud indictment accusing her of bilking Scancarbon, a brokerage firm for precious metals, high purity coal and silicon products that are exported to countries across the world, of nearly $2.4 million this year alone. FBI Agent Christopher S. Lucado alleges in a criminal complaint, however, that Janous has been stealing from the firm since 2006 and puts her thievery haul at $4.5 million.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Dale has been mum on the discrepancy in the indictment and the complaint but noted he has the right under the law to take the case back to a federal grand jury to up the ante as evidence is either discovered or confirmed.
Janous, then known as Leslie Gibbs, first captured the spotlight in Knoxville when she and her domestic partner, Leigh Janous, threw a "Sweet 15" party for Leslie's daughter, Brittany, so elaborate it caught the attention of MTV producers for the reality series "My Sweet 16," a show that features outrageously expensive birthday celebrations for teenagers. MTV ultimately bowed out of filming, but the fete went on as planned.
It included so-called "eye candy" -- Farragut athletes hired to sport shirtless, glittered-covered chests and give the birthday girl and Leslie Janous "lap dances." Leslie Janous forked over thousands for pricey designer dresses, hairdressers and makeup artists for her daughter and her "princess court" of friends, a dance troupe to perform and a rapper from Georgia to entertain. She gifted her daughter a special-edition 2006 BMW valued at nearly $50,000.
A News Sentinel story on the gala prompted online outrage as hundreds weighed in with comments condemning the extravagance.
These days, Janous is shelling out cash to pay one of the state's top white-collar-crime defense attorneys, Tom Dillard.
Contacted Monday, Dillard said his firm is "in the process of getting information from the feds" about the allegations. He declined further comment.
Already, the feds are seeking more than $2.3 million in cash from Leslie Janous and her $1.15 million house in West Knoxville if she is convicted. That seizure figure will grow if Dale seeks an indictment consistent with the FBI's claim of fraud dating back to 2006.