Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin Indicted in Bribery Conspiracy

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By Glynn Wilson

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Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who burst upon the national scene during the botched handling of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for 21 counts of bribery, honest service wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and filing false tax returns, according to a press release just out from the FBI.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune‘s Website partner NOLA.com broke the story Monday.

Nagin, 56, is now a resident of Frisco, Texas near Dallas, after term limits prevented him from running for another term for mayor in 2010, when he abandoned New Orleans and Louisiana after writing a book on Katrina.

I got to know Nagin a bit while covering his campaigns for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times when I lived in New Orleans. From my dealings with him, it was pretty obvious to me just from his body language that he was a snake in the grass, a new kind of post-Civil Rights conservative black politician who is in it for personal gain, sort of like Alabama’s Artur Davis or Clarence Thomas, who got appointed to the Supreme Court by standing out of the crowd and acting as sort of a “token black” for Republicans to glom onto to show they are not racists.

Nagin was a successful corporate businessman who led the Cox cable company before he decided to enter public life by running for mayor of New Orleans. Things were going pretty well for him until Hurricane Katrina hit the coast in late August, 2005. Nagin was blamed for the poor response to the disaster along with Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and President George W. Bush.

According to today’s federal grand jury indictment, since December 2004 Nagin and several others participated in a conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud. The indictment alleges that Nagin, in his role as chief executive, devised a scheme to defraud the city of New Orleans and its citizens through bribery and a kickback scheme, whereby Nagin used his public office and official capacity to provide favorable treatment, including awarding contracts, that benefitted business and financial interest of individuals providing him with bribes and kickbacks in the form of checks, cash, granite inventory, wire transfers, personal services and free travel, according to the Justice Department. The indictment charges Nagin with accepting numerous bribes and payoffs from consultants and contractors, being involved in a money laundering conspiracy and filing false tax returns for the years 2005 to 2008.

“This office will continue its history of investigating and prosecuting public corruption,” U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente said. “This is an important part of the office’s mission to serve the citizens of the Eastern District of Louisiana and make certain they have honest public officials.”

Michael Anderson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s New Orleans Field Office, said: “This indictment should serve as a reminder to current and former public officials that, in the interest of full accountability, the FBI pursues corruption even after an official leaves office.”

According to the indictment, in January 2005, Nagin created Stone Age LLC, a granite company based in New Orleans.

The indictment alleges, among other things, that Nagin accepted approximately $72,250 in bribes from Rodney Williams and his company, Three Fold Consultants LLC. The indictment also alleges Nagin accepted bribes from Frank Fradella, including $50,000, granite inventory and nine payoffs in the form of wire transfers from Fradella totaling $112,500. In some cases, money was deposited into Nagin’s Stone Age corporate account, or free granite inventory was provided to Stone Age.

If convicted of conspiring with others to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud, Nagin faces statutory penalties of up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. If convicted of accepting a bribes, Nagin faces statutory penalties of up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release on each count.

If convicted of accepting payoffs that caused interstate wire communications to occur between Louisiana and other states, Nagin faces statutory penalties of up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on each count. If convicted of conspiring to commit money laundering, Nagin faces statutory penalties of up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. If convicted of filing false tax returns for years 2005 through 2008, Nagin faces statutory penalties of up to three years in prison, a $100,000 fine and three years of supervised release on each count.

The indictment also contains notices of forfeiture which puts the defendant on notice that the government intends on forfeiting any and all property and profits concerned with and/or derived from any illegal activity referenced in the indictment.

U.S. Attorney Boente reiterated that today’s indictment describes allegations and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the IRS-CI, and the New Orleans Office of Inspector General. U.S. Attorney Boente would also like to acknowledge the assistance provided by the New Orleans Inspector General’s Office and the Metropolitan Crime Commission. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew M. Coman and Richard R. Pickens, II.

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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