NEW ORLEANS - A government witness in the Ray Nagin corruption case has had his own sentencing rescheduled for a fourth time as he waits to testify in a potential Nagin trial.
Aaron Bennett had been scheduled for sentencing next week for bribing former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle. But now the sentencing is pushed back to July, after the Nagin trial is scheduled to begin in April.
Bennett is a former vendor in Nagin’s City Hall who was convicted of bribing Hingle in October 2011 in a corruption case that had nothing to do with his work in New Orleans.
But Bennett said in an exclusive interview with me shortly before he pleaded guilty that he introduced Nagin to another businessman named Frank Fradella in 2007 with the idea of helping Nagin and his family expand their own business dealings.
Fradella pleaded guilty last June to bribing Nagin for his help in getting lucrative city contracts and also said he provided the mayor with truckloads of free granite for the Nagin family countertop business, Stone Age LLC.
In their indictment of Nagin last month, the feds said Bennett provided a private jet through one of Fradella’s companies for Nagin to attend the 2007 NFC Championship Game in Chicago and go to Las Vegas to meet Fradella. Immediately after that trip, Bennett began receiving public money through a no-bid arrangement in which his company, Benetech, simply served as a pass-through to pay a subcontractor. That subcontractor was Mark St. Pierre, who is now serving 17 years in prison for paying bribes and kickbacks to a top Nagin aide, Greg Meffert.