Cannon went on to help Houston win two league titles, and he led the AFL in rushing in 1961 with 948 yards. A back injury and dissatisfaction with the Oilers got him traded in 1964 to Oakland, where he was switched to tight end. In 1970 the Raiders released him, and he joined Kansas City. Cannon played one year there before retiring, having twice been named All-AFL.
Unlike many pro athletes, Cannon had prepared for life after his playing days. He studied dentistry at LSU in his off-seasons, and according to Dr. John P. Harbour, who is purchasing Cannon's practice, Cannon has become "a heck of an orthodontist." All along, though, some of the people Cannon chose as friends raised eyebrows. Among them is Edward Grady Partin, a former business manager of Teamsters Local No. 5 who's doing time for obstructing justice. Cannon was employed by the Teamsters during high school and maintains close ties with Partin. In the late '70s Cannon even served as president of a Teamster-affiliated union that was being established in the local Department of Public Works. Another buddy was former State Agriculture Commissioner Gil Dozier, who's now serving an 18-year sentence for racketeering and extortion.
"Billy's a lousy judge of character," says Oggero. "That's his big weakness." Adds Jack Fiser, who is writing a history of LSU, "He seemed to associate with people who had a peculiarly low ethical threshold. But on the other hand, we don't expect anyone to fill a job honestly around here. The Protestant work ethic has worn out. Things that shock other people don't shock us much."
Cannon displayed questionable ethics again in 1980 when he sent a telegram to all 26 big-league baseball teams telling them not to draft Billy Jr., a fine prospect at shortstop, because Billy had decided to go to college. Subsequently, the Yankees, who were apparently told by Cannon that Billy might play pro baseball right away, drafted him. New York was set to sign him when Commissioner Bowie Kuhn said no, on the grounds that other clubs properly felt they had been misled. Cannon reportedly was pushing for a $350,000 signing bonus for Billy.
Records of the 19th Judicial District Court of the Parish of East Baton Rouge show Cannon has been a party to at least 38 civil lawsuits over the years. On May 20, for instance, a judgment was handed down against him for failing to pay a $137,803.17 debt on a condominium. On April 22 he was ordered to pay $87,880.80 on a loan he took to buy a Mack truck. Oggero insists many of the suits, including these two, were cases in which Cannon co-signed notes for others and that the property wasn't even his.
Finally, he has had a falling-out with LSU. He was furious with former Athletic Director Carl Maddox over the location of his six seats at Tiger Stadium. They're on the 50-yard line, but on the east side—the visitors' side—and Cannon wants to be on the LSU side. More recently, Cannon thought a lot of local folks were mad at him because Billy Jr. enrolled at Texas A&M instead of LSU. "That's not true at all," says one Tiger football source. "It was a relief in a way because we knew Billy would be on our ass all the time, second-guessing us."
None of these incidents, however, explains why Cannon became a counterfeiter. His friends insist he wasn't motivated by greed. Hardly a high liver, he considers boiling crawfish at home with Dorothy, his wife of 27 years, a big night. Desperation evidently didn't drive him, either, say his friends. Among Cannon's property holdings is a 20-acre lot—on which most of the counterfeit loot was found—that's worth more than $1 million. He owns a small shopping center valued at $500,000. He's one-fourth owner of 47 prime acres near his home; his share is worth at least $1.5 million. His cut of a Houston office building comes to $200,000. Cannon owes very little on any of these investments. Friends agree that if Cannon had to pay off all his debts right now, he would be left with a net worth of $2 to $3 million. In short, there doesn't seem to be any concrete explanation of Cannon the counterfeiter.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Rand Miller, Cannon met with a neighbor, John Stiglets, a convicted counterfeiter, in January 1980 to discuss a counterfeiting scheme. Six months later Cannon gave Stiglets $15,000 to buy a printing press to get started. The work on the bills—the plates were quite good, says Miller, but the quality of the paper was poor—was done in a warehouse in Cleburne, Texas. On April Fools' Day 1981, Stiglets delivered approximately $1 million in counterfeit $100 bills to Cannon, who had them shipped to William Glasscock in Pensacola, Fla. Glasscock, who planned to put the bills into circulation by selling them for a fraction of their face value, is being held on counterfeiting charges in lieu of $2.5 million bond. By September 1981, Stiglets had sent another $5 million in bills to Cannon.
Authorities began to unravel the scheme late last year when several of the bogus bills showed up at a Baton Rouge shopping center. An investigation eventually led the Feds to suspect Cannon and others. On July 7 an informant told authorities a big sale was being arranged by two of Cannon's accomplices, Timothy Melancon, a general merchandise broker from Thibodaux, La., and Charles Whitfield, who says he has several businesses, including a hog farm in Florida and shrimp boats. Both men have been charged with conspiracy to possess and deal in phony money. Last Saturday, Melancon also was indicted for conspiring to import and distribute 340 pounds of marijuana. Further, said the informant, Melancon had been in touch with Cannon, who had been under 24-hour surveillance for more than a month.
At noon on July 8 Melancon picked up Cannon at Cannon's office and then drove in an erratic, evasive manner to a spot down an unmarked dead-end road off Jones Creek Road on the outskirts of Baton Rouge. There Cannon pointed out where he had buried some of the money. After returning Cannon to his office, Melancon picked up Whitfield, and the pair headed back to the Jones Creek Road lot. Their speed ranged from 30 to 80 mph. They stopped by the side of the road, made some U-turns, went up dead-ends, stopped off at three convenience stores, drove through residential sections. Never did they notice the eight-car tail of law-enforcement officers following them.