“Took a bribe, I’m sweatin’ WHOOO!!!”
Federal prosecutors are investigating as part of an ongoing corruption probe former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who rose to national prominence as the city’s leader during Hurricane Katrina but whose popularity was eroded by frustration with rebuilding efforts.
Rodney Williams, a New Orleans businessman, pleaded guilty Wednesday to bribery and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in a public-corruption investigation against a former city official named in documents as “Public Official ‘A.'” Two people briefed on the matter say that person is Mr. Nagin.
Though federal prosecutors are investigating Mr. Nagin, any charges aren’t imminent, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
Mr. Williams is the latest of several former city officials and businessmen to be prosecuted for corruption that took place while Mr. Nagin was mayor. The 47-year-old president of Three Fold Consultants LLC, a New Orleans engineering firm that was awarded multiple contracts while Mr. Nagin was in office, pleaded guilty to bribing “Public Official ‘A'” with $72,250.
Mr. Williams funneled the money through a company owned by the official and the official’s close family members, according to prosecutors. Mr. Williams’s plea agreement calls for him to serve 30 to 37 months in prison and to fully cooperate.
In June, Frank Fradella, whose companies received millions of dollars in city contracts while Mr. Nagin was in office, pleaded guilty in federal court to securities fraud and conspiring to commit bribery. In his plea agreement, Mr. Fradella agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in an ongoing corruption investigation. A prosecution document that accompanied Mr. Fradella’s plea agreement outlined how he paid bribes—including a $50,000 check—and delivered free granite to “Public Official ‘A.'” The document states that the unnamed official, starting in 2007, “used his office to provide favorable treatment and benefits to Fradella and his business interests.”
Brad Myers, a former federal prosecutor who handled public corruption cases and is now a partner with Kean Miller, a criminal-defense firm based in Baton Rouge, said prosecutors appear to be following “a traditional law-enforcement prosecution model” of going after lower-level people involved in a crime to get them to testify against more important participants.
“They are picking off people one at a time,” he said.
“Them people” not playin’ with you Ray-Ray, those chickens are coming home to roost.