Nagin's family filed BP claim for defunct business, but will that affect trial?

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wwltv.com

Posted on September 25, 2013 at 10:29 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 25 at 10:41 PM

David Hammer / Eyewitness News
Email: dhammer@wwltv.com | Twitter: @davidhammerWWL

NEW ORLEANS -- Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s son Jeremy signed sworn statements in November 2010 requesting a “substantial” amount of money from BP for damage the oil spill purportedly caused to the Nagin family’s granite countertop business, but the claim was denied, sources tell Eyewitness News.

The claim by Nagin’s company, Stone Age LLC, for money from BP first came to light in a court filing by federal prosecutors in the run-up to Nagin’s corruption trial. The New Orleans Advocate broke the story Monday, pointing out that Stone Age had closed its doors long before the BP oil spill even happened.

WWL-TV also has a public record, first disclosed years ago by lawyer Tracie Washington, in which Nagin stated that Stone Age had “ceased operations” in January 2009.

That’s 15 months before the oil spill and 22 months before Jeremy Nagin filed the emergency claim with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, or GCCF, the agency set up by BP to pay billions of dollars in economic damage claims before a court-supervised settlement kicked in last year.

Jeremy Nagin’s attorney, Clarence Roby Jr., declined to comment, except to say that he wondered why the government was offering this new evidence when his clients, Jeremy and Jarin Nagin, have not been charged with any crime.

The fact that Stone Age was not compensated by the GCCF likely means the federal government can’t level a separate fraud or theft charge against the sons for collecting any BP money under false pretenses, legal analyst Jason Williams said.

But Williams said prosecutors are likely to ask U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan to allow the claim as evidence, to help them build a general case about Ray Nagin’s modus operandi as a businessman, or to hold it over his head as his defense team tries to emphasize the good things he did for New Orleans.

“It’s not a good look when you’re asking 12 people to find you not guilty to have another case of lying come up,” Williams said.

Stone Age is central to the government’s case against the former mayor. Prosecutors allege that he used the company to collect bribes and gifts like free truckloads of granite from city contractors.

They also allege that Nagin used Stone Age to disguise illicit payments, giving entities affiliated with two separate city vendors bogus shares in the granite company as “cover” for receiving the money.

Williams said Nagin’s lawyer, Robert Jenkins, will try to keep the BP claim out of the trial. It is scheduled to begin Oct. 28, but Jenkins wants it delayed so he can gather more information about allegedly prejudicial online comments posted by former federal prosecutors.

If allowed into evidence, the BP claim could also have a bearing on Jeremy and Jarin Nagin, who co-owned Stone Age with their father and allegedly received large kickback payments and free granite deliveries from a vendor doing business with City Hall.

Neither son has been charged with a crime, and the window for charging them with receiving the alleged kickbacks has all but closed.

The cash payment and granite deliveries that city contractor Frank Fradella admitted arranging — and that allegedly went to the sons — happened more than five years ago, which is the maximum time allowed by law for charging them with crimes for those specific acts.

But now that the government is offering evidence showing Jeremy Nagin pursued the BP claim only three years ago, it could open the door to distinct charges, Williams said.

“I don’t think they’re going to be charged in this particular case, but the government always has the option to file a superseding indictment on the mayor or on anyone associated with Stone Age," Williams said.

 

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