Federal authorities investigating clothing purchases linked to Mayor Cantrell

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 10:11 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Federal investigators are looking into a series of clothing purchases made in the past five years by a New Orleans salon owner who also works as a personal shopper and stylist for Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

A source with knowledge of the investigation told Fox 8 that FBI agents have requested documents and interviewed employees of Ballin’s Ltd., a high-end New Orleans fashion retailer with two locations in the city. Agents have interviewed employees of the company’s boutiques twice in the last month.

According to the Fox 8 source, the FBI subpoenaed receipts and documents from the business in August and have sought more details of about 20 purchases of clothing and accessories worth thousands of dollars made by Tanya Blunt-Haynes. Some of the purchases were made with a combination of cash and credit cards, while others were paid only with cash.

Haynes told store employees she was purchasing clothing for Cantrell that the mayor later wore to events such as Essence Fest and the 2018 visit of Spain’s royal couple. Some of the clothing purchases being examined date to 2017, when Cantrell was still a member of New Orleans’ City Council.

Laura Rodrigue, an attorney representing Ballin’s, confirmed that the business and its employees “are cooperating with federal agents in a criminal investigation,” but that Ballin’s is not a target of the probe. She declined further comment.

Federal investigators are scrutinizing clothing purchases made by a mayor's aide from the New...
Federal investigators are scrutinizing clothing purchases made by a mayor's aide from the New Orleans boutique Ballin's Ltd.(WVUE-Fox 8)

Haynes, owner of Friends Salon Nola in Gentilly, has met frequently with Cantrell, according to the mayor’s official calendar obtained by Fox 8.

The calendar shows 38 scheduled meetings between the two since 2020. By contrast, the mayor’s 2022 calendar shows just two scheduled meetings with her director of code enforcement and none with her public works director, sanitation director or director of safety and permits.

Records also show Haynes has received $175,000 since 2017 from Cantrell’s campaign account, which lists her as Cantrell’s “image consultant.”

The nature of the criminal investigation or range of possible charges being considered is unclear. The office of U.S. Attorney Duane Evans’ office would neither confirm nor deny the ongoing investigation.

Fox 8′s attempts to speak with Haynes on Wednesday were unsuccessful and she did not return messages. City Hall spokesman Gregory Joseph issued a statement that said, “We have not been made aware of any investigation concerning Mayor Cantrell.”

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