NEW ORLEANS - Businessman Rodney Williams pleaded guilty to federal charges on Wednesday that he paid more than $62,000 to a granite countertop business owned by a City of New Orleans official and another $10,000 cash to the public official's close family members as payoffs for city contracts.
Sources confirm that the official is former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. And now it's clear that if the government wants to charge Nagin with a crime for the first $60,000 in alleged bribes, they need to do it in a matter of weeks because the statute of limitations for that particular overt act runs out Jan. 31.
Neither the government nor Williams and his attorneys would say who the public official is, but when asked if "Public Official A" named in the court documents is Nagin, Williams' attorney Ralph Capitelli said: "It would be the worst, worst investigative reporter on the planet who couldn't figure out who 'Public Official A' is."
Besides, the four-page factual basis for Williams' guilty plea contains staggeringly obvious clues that it's Nagin.
First, it points out that Williams paid the official to get engineering and professional service contracts that the mayor had the power to award, and that after an initial payment of $60,000, Williams' company Three Fold Consultants got that kind of contract.
A source with knowledge of the evidence told us a month ago that Three Fold scored so poorly in a review of proposed contractors that a panel deemed it unqualified for the work. But Nagin gave Williams the contracts anyway.
Second, the documents note that the first $62,250 in checks went to the granite installation company owned by Public Official A. Ray Nagin owned a granite installation company at the time named Stone Age LLC.
And the last payment, a cash payment of $10,000 on July 21, 2009, went to close members of the public official's family, in exchange for bogus documents showing an ownership stake in the granite company. Nagin owned Stone Age with his sons, Jeremy and Jarin, and sources have confirmed that the cash payment went to them.
The sons' attorney, Clarence Roby Jr., said it would be improper for him to confirm or deny if his clients received the alleged payment. He also said the government has not contacted him about the latest allegations.
Williams's payoffs began when he allegedly gave Nagin's granite company, Stone Age, three $20,000 checks on January 31, 2008.
After the $60,000 payoff, Williams' company, Three Fold, received contracts with the City of New Orleans, according to the factual basis, then went on to receive more city work through the end of Nagin's time as mayor. City records show Three Fold got at least $3 million in contracts during Nagin's tenure.
Williams allegedly paid another $2,250 check to Nagin's granite company on June 13, 2008.
Williams agreed in the plea deal that the final payment to the close members of the public official's family was part of a scheme to conceal the real reason for the payoffs. It was supposed to make it look like all the payments were to give a company Williams created a share of the public official's granite company.
But Williams didn't actually form this new company until after the $60,000 payoff on Jan. 31, 2008.
Williams is the second business man to be convicted of conspiring to of bribe a city of New Orleans official who owned a granite countertop business.
In June, Frank Fradella, a disaster rebuilding contractor, pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe a public official also known to be Nagin with $50,000 and truckloads of free granite.
When asked if any other public officials other than Nagin owned a granite countertop business at that time, Capitelli said Eyewitness News "asked a question I think you know the answer to."
Capitelli said Williams would cooperate with the federal investigation. Under the plea agreement, the government agreed to limit Williams' time in prison to 30 to 37 months even though the charge of conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 60 months. (See the factual basis)
Judge Susie Morgan set Williams' sentencing for March 27, 2013.