Mike Hoss, Lesley Simpson and Bradley Handwerger / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS – Former New Orleans technology chief Greg Meffert continued his eye-opening testimony in the federal criminal trial of a former technology company leader after a midday lunch break Wednesday.
Meffert, who took the stand in the morning and detailed how Mark St. Pierre curried favor with gifts, strippers and paid-for sex acts, said there were things he did for St. Pierre that he regrets, including lies about where money came from and bringing his wife Linda into the corruption.
The former city employee said he lied about where he obtained funds for a $38,000 check, which was hinted at in first-day testimony, and that they actually were from Linda, who supposedly worked at NetMethods for $90 per hour for three months.
However, Meffert went on to say that his wife was actually in the hospital at the time she supposedly worked at NetMethods, St. Pierre’s technology company that was awarded city contract with New Orleans, and that the money really came from kickbacks.
Meffert, who pleaded guilty in November to taking bribes from St. Pierre and faces a maximum of eight years in prison, told jurors that he and St. Pierre had stories concocted for what they’d say in case any issues arose in public questioning the deals.
Meffert said everything he did for St. Pierre happened while he was in public office.
Years later, he said there’s remorse.
“The only thing I can do now is tell the truth,” said Meffert, who also said he regretted dragging his wife into the corruption.
“I let everybody down,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Meffert chronicled how gifts, strippers and paid-for sex acts helped sway contracts St. Pierre’s way.
Meffert testified that St. Pierre purchased a yacht so Meffert could “enjoy the good life.” The former city employee said he was able to tell people the yacht was his.
Further, Meffert said St. Pierre, through flunky Jimmy Goodson, would hire stripper for weekly yacht parties. Goodson, according to Meffert, also was paid by St. Pierre to obtain strippers for sex acts for Meffert and St. Pierre.
Additionally, St. Pierre would pay for lawn service, landscape work and pool maintenance along with maid work for Meffert’s house, the former technology chief testified.
And after Katrina tore the roof off Meffert’s house, St. Pierre paid $9,000 towards a new roof despite the fact that Meffert was already paid insurance money for the structure, he testified.
In 2006, when then-Mayor Ray Nagin was up for re-election, Nagin asked Meffert to help raise money for the campaign. So Meffert said he turned to St. Pierre and Ed Burn to raise $100,000 each for Nagin.
Both, Meffert testified, reached their targeted goals for the campaign.
This comes on the heels of testimony in which Meffert said St. Pierre wrote the request for a proposal for a city contract himself to help insure getting the bid.
Meffert said Wednesday on the stand that the process that awarded a lucrative deal to St. Pierre’s firm was not “open or fair.”
To that end, Meffert testified that Earthlink was awarded a city-wide contract and agreed to make St. Pierre its preferred vendor despite the fact that Earthlink didn’t know of St. Pierre prior to the deal.
Meffert was being cross examined after a day on the stand where he was questioned by federal prosecutors. He is considered a star witness in the case.
On the stand Tuesday, Meffert told the jury he had accepted bribes and kickbacks for steering business to St. Pierre’s firm.
Meffert told the jury the first payment, totaling $38,000, came at a time when he and his wife were in bad financial shape.
"We were desperate for money," Meffert said.
Meffert said the payments came in other forms, too, including tens of thousands of dollars, wine, dinner, drinks and adult entertainment. The adult entertainment was mainly outings to strip clubs for Meffert, paid for by St. Pierre.
"This was an ongoing thing," Meffert said. "Usually Tuesdays or Thursdays."
Meffert said he and St. Pierre tried to hide the payments and their financial company ties in several ways. One was to use a company called "Ciber, Inc.," the company with the main contract with the city for upgrading and integrating the computer system at City Hall.
St. Pierre's company, "Imagine," was then used as a subcontractor. In turn, St. Pierre also paid another subcontractor: a company established by Meffert's wife.
"It looked great. Ciber -- billion dollar company," Meffert said. "Better than Greg hiring four of his friends."
Late Tuesday, the jury also heard about the infamous Hawaiian vacation taken by the Mefferts, along with former Mayor Ray Nagin and his family. The jury saw a picture of the Nagins and Mefferts at a luau in Hawaii. Meffert said the trip was paid for by St. Pierre.
"It was a bribe and it was awful," Meffert replied, when asked by prosecutors why he didn't tell the truth about who paid for the trip.
Nagin is listed as a possible witness in the trial, which is scheduled to last two weeks.