NEW ORLEANS -- Praveen Kailas pleaded guilty in August to federal charges of conspiracy and theft of public funds that stemmed from our exclusive Eyewitness Investigation.
But now he is objecting to parts of probation officers’ pre-sentence investigation, and Thursday he succeeded in getting Chief U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance to delay his sentencing by a week.
His sentencing is now set for Nov. 21.
The week’s delay would be nothing major, except that federal prosecutors did not want it, and they noted in court filings that Kailas’ attorney, Walter Becker, lodged 33 different objections to the pre-sentencing report.
It’s not clear what those disputes are, but they could set the stage for a trial-like showdown at the sentencing hearing -- when normally defendants who have admitted their guilt would try to strike a conciliatory or remorseful tone.
It’s the latest strange turn in a case that began with an extensive WWL-TV investigation last fall that showed how Kailas, whose father and uncle are big financial supporters of Gov. Bobby Jindal, managed to get paid for work on three different government housing programs at the same time, while he was also running private development projects like the Woolworth Building downtown and a mansion for himself on Bayou St. John.
The state of Louisiana was billed as if Kailas and many of his employees were working full-time hours on the Road Home Small Rental Repair Program, even though records, interviews and photographs gathered by WWL-TV showed those same employees working on Kailas’ other projects on the very same days.
The federal Housing and Urban Development inspector general and FBI picked up the case and federal prosecutors charged Kailas in June, but the whole case was kept under seal for two months, until after Kailas had already pleaded guilty, a rare occurrence in federal white-collar cases.
And in yet another oddity, Kailas agreed in court documents that he stole “not more than $236,000,” rather than stipulating to the specific amount – raising the possibility that the amount he stole could still be at issue.
Becker, Kailas’ attorney, could not be reached immediately for comment Thursday.