Experts say Fradella's likely guilty plea could be bad news for Nagin

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 9:45 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 26 at 10:01 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS - A Covington businessman is expected to plead guilty Wednesday to bribery charges involving a New Orleans city official.

And his attorney suggested Tuesday that the official is former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

"Mr. (Frank) Fradella is now another Team  USA volunteer,” said Randy Smith, Fradella’s attorney. “He'll be cooperating fully, whatever questions the government has for him.

Smith did all the talking outside Federal Court on Tuesday afternoon as his client stood by his side.

Fradella is facing one count of securities fraud stemming from a Texas case in which he originally faced seven charges. He also faces one count of conspiring to bribe or corruptly influence a public official.

When asked if that official was Nagin, Smith was evasive.

"It doesn't name him and it’s not my right to name him,” Smith said. “The government for whatever reason isn't calling the public official by name. But if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck right?”

According to the attorney, a new federal bill of information that hasn't been released to the public says Fradella bribed a New Orleans public official, depriving the citizens of New Orleans of the honest services of that public official. Smith said the unnamed official served from May 2002 through May 2010.

Eyewitness News Political Analyst Clancy Dubos said all signs point to Nagin.

"There aren't that many city officials who served in office with the authority to enter into contracts with Mr. Fradella, who served from 2002 to 2010,” DuBos said. “The obvious one is Ray Nagin. There were city council members but they don't have contractual authority.”

Fradella is now the fifth person connected to the Nagin administration who benefited from post-Katrina city contracts. Four of those people have either been convicted or plead guilty to criminal federal charges.

Eyewitness News Legal Analyst Chick Foret said Fradella is likely cooperating with the feds hoping to land a more lenient sentence.

"We all know the way that works,” Foret said. “Mr. Fradella has gone in. He's visited with the U.S. Attorney's Office. He's visited with FBI agents. He's given them all the information that he possesses against anyone who has committed in any crimes.”

DuBos said Fradella's case is yet another federal probe in a long list that may or may not lead to Nagin.

"As Mr. (Jim) Letten likes to say, they're following the trail of evidence wherever it leads and that's what prosecutors do,” DuBos said. “If the trail leads to Ray Nagin, then he has a problem. If the trail doesn't lead to them to him, then maybe this really is just an ethics problem.”

DuBos was referring to Nagin's exclusive interview with WWL-TV in February. Nagin has said he's been in the center of an ethics investigation.

Eyewitness News attempted to reach Nagin's attorney for a comment on this story but our phone call was not returned.

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