NEW ORLEANS -- Businessman Rodney Williams pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud in federal court on Tuesday. But that was just a formality.
“He will enter a plea of guilty tomorrow to the charge before Judge (Susie) Morgan and we'll have a limited comment tomorrow,” said Williams’ attorney, Ralph Capitelli.
Our sources say Williams has been working with prosecutors in their case against Nagin for months.
Williams was the president of Three Fold Consultants, a politically active company that had some major subcontracts after Hurricane Katrina.
But Williams wanted more. He wanted to be the prime contractor handling engineering and design work on major recovery projects. And the feds say he got it, allegedly in exchange for paying Nagin more than $50,000.
City records show that Three Fold got more than a dozen city contracts worth more than $3 million in the last two years of Nagin’s administration. And because the work was engineering and other professional services, the competition for the work was done behind closed doors and Nagin had total control over who got the contracts.
Federal prosecutors charged him last month with paying off "Public Official A" to get more City Hall work.
The bill of information filed against Williams says he got help from the public official in November 2007 and started paying him off in January 2008.
Sources say that "Public Official A" is Nagin.
The feds also charged Williams with trying to hide the real reason for the payoffs, using corporate documents as a ruse.
Our sources say Nagin agreed to give Williams bogus ownership documents in the mayor's family granite countertop business, Stone Age LLC – to make it look like the $50,000-plus had purchased Williams a share in the company.
Even before Capitelli confirmed Wednesday's guilty plea, Jefferson Parish President John Young sent a letter urging the parish council to terminate a contract with Three Fold for a road improvement study and to remove the company as an approved subcontractor or vendor on three other deals.
The company has eight open contracts or amendments with the administration of New Orleans’ current mayor, Mitch Landrieu. The Landrieu administration had given Three Fold a $500,000 increase on a $1 million street repair management contract Williams had signed with Nagin. Landrieu also signed a new Lower 9th Ward streetscaping contract with Three Fold and Williams four months ago that’s capped at $838,000.
Landrieu spokesman Ryan Berni said the administration is reviewing all of Three Fold’s contracts. Landrieu himself told WWL-TV on Nov. 13 that a conviction would prevent the company from getting further city work.
“In the event that this individual, and I don't know who it is, is determined to have engaged in illegal behavior, they'll be disqualified from bidding on public contracts,” Landrieu said. “They won't make it through our process."
Williams was removed as an owner of Three Fold when he started talking to the feds, but he is the one who signed all of the existing municipal contracts for the firm. Williams’ former partners, Tarek Elnaggar and Bassam Mekari, could not be reached by phone or email Tuesday.
Nagin's defense attorney, Robert Jenkins, did not respond to several requests for comment.