Betty Jefferson, the disgraced former New Orleans assessor and school board member, who in 2011 confessed to her role in masterminding a scam to defraud charities of more than $1 million in taxpayer funds, has died. She was 74.
Her attorney, Eddie Castaing, confirmed the news of her death to The New Orleans Advocate and Eyewitness News.
In 2011, U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle sentenced Jefferson, the sister of ex-Rep. William Jefferson, to 15 months of house arrest and five years probation for her role in the bogus charity scheme.
In sentencing Jefferson, Judge Lemelle said he considered her decision to cooperate with prosecutors, and her role as caretaker for her daughter, Angela Coleman, who was gravely ill at the time.
"I can truly say I am sorry for those decisions I made," Jefferson told the judge at her sentencing. "I take responsibility for what I did."
Jefferson and her daughter pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering and tax evasion.
Their plea came less than a month before they were set to stand trial, admitting they used various political offices and nonprofit groups under their control to enrich themselves. The nonprofits received millions of dollars in government grants, all steered to the family by relatives and allies who held political office.
Betty Jefferson was a key witness in the federal racketeering retrial of one of those allies - former New Orleans City Council member and state Rep. Renee Gill Pratt - who was convicted of participating in the same scheme but is now appealing.
Jefferson’s brother, Mose, died in prison in May 2011 while serving a 10-year jail term for bribery.
Another brother, former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, is serving a 13-year federal prison sentence in Texas for soliciting bribes and other corruption charges.