INVESTIGATIVE UNIT: Convicted former CATS Board member involved in more questionable activities
BATON ROUGE - A convicted thief who stole money from the Capital Area Transit System is now involved in other questionable activities.
Those who encountered Montrell McCaleb are calling him a master manipulator.
Norelle Feinauer is passionate about her community and the city of Baton Rouge. So when she had the opportunity to get involved in an organization set up to help underprivileged kids, she jumped at the opportunity. It's called the Louisiana Cultural Arts and Academic Experience. It was set up by a man who identified himself to Feinauer as Montrell Henderson.
"It was an educational initiative to empower at risk youth through educational opportunities and cultural development," Feinauer said.
Feinauer, a general manager at a local restaurant, met Montrell Henderson when he came into the restaurant one day looking for donations.
"One day randomly he called and asked if I would be his board chair," Feinauer said.
Feinauer agreed, and over the course of a few months Feinauer says her restaurant, which she didn't want identified, gave at least $600 worth of food and other items to Montrell Henderson. But she began getting suspicious when questions she had about that organization weren't adding up. She was quickly promoted to board chair and was asked to sign what she described as a ridiculous employment contract for Henderson.
The contract, guaranteed MJ Henderson $40,000 per year, a paid membership to the City Club, spouse expenses if he gets married, allowances for his car, phone and housing.
"We were able to start tracking back through his past and previous organizations he had created," Feinauer said.
What Feinauer discovered was MJ Henderson is actually Montrell McCaleb. It happened after she watched a story on WBRZ.com where McCaleb was questioned about using CATS money to pay his personal cable bill.
"I was accused of taking money from CATS, I didn't take any money from CATS," McCaleb said at the time.
But, despite denying it, in 2016, McCaleb pleaded guilty to felony theft. He was placed on probation and forced to pay restitution. The Investigative Unit found over the following time frame from 2011 to 2017, McCaleb has been operating or closely tied to nonprofits using the following aliases:
"He doesn't care about the kids at all," Feinauer said. "He does not care about the kids at all."
His neighbors called him a scam artist. The Investigative Unit finally found McCaleb weeks later on another one of his side hustles washing cars at Southern University. He was asked about the Louisiana Cultural Arts Experience and the nonprofits he set up.
"Chris Nakamoto, I have no comment on the nonprofits I'm setting up," McCaleb responded.
The Investigative Unit also wanted to know about the donations, especially the $600 worth of food and other items Feinauer says her restaurant gave him.
"Not one time could I track where the donations had gone to the children," Feinauer said. "He's told me that he's used Saints tickets to go for himself, give them to the past board chairman who is on the other documents. Any mention of hotel stays that were donated by another board member, he used them for himself."
"I haven't gotten any donations, please leave me alone," McCaleb said.
When asked what has he done for children, McCaleb responded, "Chris Nakamoto, I have no comment."
We also asked him why he's using multiple aliases.
"Chris Nakamoto, I have no comment," McCaleb said.
That's about the time McCaleb had enough. He went to a vehicle that still had dealer tags and a Baton Rouge Police parking permit on it. He took off and blew right through a stop sign.
Questions loom about McCaleb's background and what he's been doing. Feinauer just wants others to beware.
"He's in it for himself," Feinauer said. "He's trying to milk every dollar he can. He's trying to pad his own pockets, live this lavish lifestyle just right under the noses of people who have genuine intentions."
The Investigative Unit found over the past couple of years, McCaleb has been requesting $200,000 from the state to fund the organizations he sets up. Most have identical descriptions under different names. So far, the state says, it has not funded those organizations.