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The federal case against former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

New_Orlean_Mayor_Ray_NaginA federal grand jury on Friday charged former Mayor Ray Nagin with 21 counts of public corruption, including bribery and fraud related to his dealings with city vendors following Hurricane Katrina.

Nagin was officially charged on February 20, 2013. He pleaded not guilty to all 21 counts.

His trial is scheduled to start April 29, 2013.

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After Rodney Williams made his 180 degree turn — pleading not guilty on Tuesday, then guilty on Wednesday to bribing “Public Official A” — his lawyer joked with reporters about who received the money.

“It’d be the worst, worst investigative reporter on the planet who couldn’t figure out who Public Official A is,” Ralph Capitelli said outside of federal court.

According to court documents, Williams is accused of spending more than $60,000 to bribe someone only identified as Public Official A in exchange for city contracts.  The Factual Basis document in the case goes on to state, “That power and authority (to award large contracts) rests with the City of New Orleans’ Chief Executive Officer, the mayor.”

williamsguiltyThe feds allege the bribes took place while Ray Nagin was mayor, but Nagin’s name appears nowhere in court documents.

Last June, another businessman, Frank Fradella, also pleaded guilty to bribing Public Official A.

Both cases involve payments of cash or other considerations involving granite or a granite company.  After Hurricane Katrina, Nagin and some of his family members operated a granite counter top company.

After Fradella’s plea, his attorney Randy Smith was asked about any possible Nagin connection.  He refused to identify Public Official A but said, ” If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck, right?”

Nagin has not been charged or accused of any crimes.  Williams faces up to five years in prison, but would most likely see a much lighter sentence for his cooperation in the investigation.

“The government is clearly aware of what my client will testify to,” Capitelli said.


180 Degree Plea Could Implicate Nagin

St Charles Parish businessman Rodney Williams pleaded not guilty Tuesday afternoon to bribing a City of New Orleans public official.  But Wednesday, Williams will make a 180.

“He’ll change his plea to guilty, and we’ll have a limited comment tomorrow,” said Williams’ defense attorney, Ralph Capitelli.

Williams is accused of bribing a public official in exchange for city business.  If Williams tells the feds that he gave the money to Ray Nagin when he was mayor, Williams could be the second person to make such a claim this year.

In June, businessman Frank Fradella pleaded guilty to bribing a public official who was only identified as “Public Official A” in court documents.

Ray Nagin has not been charged or implicated by federal prosecutors.  Following Fradella’s guilty plea, United States Attorney Jim Letten said it would be improper to identify “Public Official A”.

“It’s not that I can’t.  I won’t,” Letten said.

But Fradella’s attorney all but used Nagin’s name.

“If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” said attorney Randy Smith.

At about the same time Williams was at federal court Tuesday, former mayor Ray Nagin was hitting the social media.  Nagin retweeted minister Joel Osteen’s statement, “You are not who they say you are.  You are who God says you are.”

captureFrank Fradella smiled and said, “Good morning,” on his way into federal court Wednesday afternoon. But that was all he said outside.

Inside court, Fradella — a former associate of Ray Nagin — pleaded guilty to bribery. Prosecutors say he paid money to a public official in the city of New Orleans in exchange for post-Katrina business with his company that provided disaster recovery work.

Federal prosecutors are not identifying the person who received the money from Fradella. In court documents, the person is only identified as Public Official A.

The day before the guilty plea, Fradella’s attorney responded to questions whether the unnamed official was Ray Nagin.

“…if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck, right?” Smith said.

Documents connected to the guilty plea show the public official worked during the same years as Nagin’s terms in office. They also say the public official received $10,000 a month — for a year — after leaving city hall.

But perhaps the most interesting information in the case involves granite.

After Hurricane Katrina, the Nagin family owned a granite company. In 2008, Nagin claimed he owned 20% of the family business and said, “I’m pretty much the financier for the company.”

Outside of court Wednesday morning, following the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said Fradella bribe of Public Official A, “Included deliveries of granite.”

Nagin has not been accused or charges of any wrongdoing. Attempts to reach him or attorneys that could represent him have been unsuccessful.

capture“If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably going to be a duck, right?” asked defense attorney Randy Smith who is representing former Ray Nagin associate and businessman Frank Fradella.

Fradella is the target of a federal investigation that claims he participated in a bribery conspiracy after Hurricane Katrina. The case also lists an “Official A” as a conspirator.

Fradella is a former associate of Ray Nagin. Fradella’s company specialized in things like reconstruction projects following natural disasters. Fradella is accused of participating in the bribery scheme in exchange for business with the city, post-Katrina and during Nagin’s tenure as mayor.

“Mr. Fradella, unless he changes his mind over night, is intending to plead guilty to these two counts,” Smith said Tuesday afternoon with Fradella by his side following a hearing before a federal magistrate.

According to Smith, federal prosecutors are not naming who “Official A” is. But Smith says he served the city from May 2002 to May 2010, the year’s that Nagin was mayor.

“It doesn’t name him. It’s not my right to name him. The government, for whatever reason, is calling it Public Official A.” said Smith who added that Fradella has already cut his deal with prosecutors and knows that his maximum sentence could be. But Smith did not go into detail about the penalty.

He was also vague about how much money changed hands.

“Well, the bill of information says in excess of $5,000. But it was more than that.”

Fradella is expected in court Wednesday morning at 10:00 to enter his plea.

We were unable to reach Nagin or his attorney for comment.

captureReportedly Frank Fradella, a city contractor while Nagin was mayor, has decided to plead guilty.  Fradella joins former deputy mayor Greg Meffert who also has plead guilty.

The 2 give the Feds a strong 1-2 punch in their case against Nagin. Meffert, as Nagin’s right hand man on the inside, and now Fradella, the money man on the outside.

Fradella got nearly $50 million in city contracts from Nagin while giving Meffert large sums of money and setting Nagin and his sons up in the granite countertop business. Fradella indirectly paid for many Nagin trips including an inconceivable week-long stay in Jamaica, just weeks after Katrina.

From free lawn service to free hotel rooms to free helicopter rides and more, Nagin loved getting freebies from Fradella using Meffertt as a go between.  Now both Fradella and Meffert are telling the Feds every last detail.  And that doesn’t bode well for the ex-mayor.  It’s a 1-2 punch Nagin won’t survive.

News with a Twist

Sal Perricone’s online rants continue to cause problems

captureFormer assistant U.S. Attorney Sal Perricone continues to cause problems for Jim Letten’s office, even though Perricone has been relieved of his duties.

First, Fred Heebe and the River Birch Landfill case took a hit when Heebe and his investigators revealed Perricone’s alias from  Even Garland Robinette, beneficiary of a $250,000 gift (or bribe) from Heebe, has reservations about Perricone. Wisely, Letton recused himself and his office and now the justice department will handle Heebe.

Ex-mayor Ray Nagin, apparently part of a federal investigation, has insinuated that Perricone has tainted his reputation.  And now ex-District attorney Eddie Jordan is involved.

Jordan’s client is Richard Hall, a former NOAH contractor who has been indicted on federal theft and fraud charges.  Jordan wants the case against Hall thrown out because of Perricone’s antics.

Perricone was careless. Perricone’s ego was out of control, as was his proactive approach to blogging on, but that doesn’t mean the indicted aren’t guilty.  Although this looks bad on the surface, I doubt any cases will be thrown out because of Perricone’s blogging but the simple fact we’re discussing it, isn’t a good thing.

News with a Twist

A Nagin indictment would be welcome news

Reaction to the indictiment ranges… from satisfaction, to skepticism.Is it officially the end for ex-mayor Ray Nagin or will it be officially the end when he actually gets indicted?  No matter, things aren’t looking good for ole C. Ray.

The former New Orleans mayor, who never said no to a meal paid for by a city credit card, is apparently the focus of a federal grand jury. A possible federal indictment is next. Obviously, even our inept ex-mayor is innocent until proven guilty, but it doesn’t look promising for Mr Chocolate city.

This much we know: at the very least the Feds are focusing in on 3 angles.

1- luxury travel and home lawn service provided by city venders.
2- the Nagin’s granite installation company receiving a Home Depot contract to install countertops.
3- that at least 2 firms doing business with City Hall gave equipment to Nagin’s granite company.

Apparently Nagin’s former tech director Greg Meffert is singing like a bird, as are convicted fellons Aaron Bennett and Frank Fradella. Both recieved millions in city contracts and work and apparenty paid the Nagin’s for it.

Right now, a Federal Grand Jury is deciding if Nagin was a crook or not. I’m betting an indicent is inevitable. And welcome news.

News with a Twist

Nagin’s Crooked Campaign

captureThe Marc St. Pierre federal trial has been quite revealing and not only for St. Pierre.  The testimony from the corruption trial of the former city vender has really given us an inside look into the Ray Nagin administration, especially Nagin’s 2nd term as Mayor of the city of New Orleans.  More specifically, how Nagin’s 2nd term election campaign was funded by a large percentage of illegal contributions.

If you remember the 2006 race for mayor, it wasn’t just Nagin versus Landrieu, especially when it came down to fundraising.  Actually Ron Foreman, of the Audubon Society, raised the most cash for that race.  Forman and Landrieu each raised over $2 million, with the eventual winner, Nagin, raising a little over $1.4 million.

According to the sworn testimony of Nagin’s deputy mayor Greg Meffert, Nagin asked Meffert to raise $250,000 for his campaign.  Meffert got most of the money from St. Pierre.   One problem, you can’t just write a check for $250,000 to a campaign when the legal contribution limits are $5,000.  So Meffert and St. Pierre got a bunch of folks to contribute the $5000 limit and then reimbursed them.  By circumventing election laws, the Nagin campaign had another quarter million dollars to stay competitive in the race.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Nagin’s campaign also indirectly accepted a convicted felon’s help when the campaign had former S&WB member Benjamin Edwards contribute over $270,000 in the form of billboards promoting Nagin for mayor.  Edwards stole millions from the city for decades and apparently used some of that money to help out the former mayor.

Roughly 30% of the money Nagin used for his 2006 re-election campaign came from illegal sources.  About a quarter million dollars from St. Pierre and Meffert and another quarter million plus from Edwards, who is presently serving a 20 year jail term.

It’s safe to say, without the illegal contributions, Nagin wouldn’t have won a 2nd term and our city would be further along than it is today.