NEW ORLEANS – It appears that former New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin may be the focus of a federal investigation.
According to David Hammer of the Times-Picayune, the investigation centers around city vendors who may have given Nagin gratuities (such as plane tickets and equipment for a family granite counter-top business in exchange for city contracts.)
Eyewitness News political analyst Clancy Dubos says two of his sources confirm a federal grand jury is currently gathering facts and listening to witness testimony.
Greg Meffert has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and tax evasion during the time when he served as Nagin's chief technology officer. Meffert is now cooperating with the government.
WWL-TV legal analyst Chick Foret says Meffert would be in a good position to fill in the blanks for federal prosecutors.
“Mr. Meffert was very close Mr. Nagin,” said Foret. “He certainly was a high-ranking employee of city government. He has a lot of the facts as it relates to the areas of inquiry that the government has been looking at for quite some time now.”
Nagin's attorney Harry Rosenberg was not available for comment this morning.
In May 2009, Nagin responded to questions about trips he made to Hawaii and Jamaica and who paid for the excursions. The trip to Jamaica was allegedly purchased by Meffert on a NetMethods credit card.
“The more I look at that stuff and read it, the more confused I get and I'm one of the main players in this,” said Nagin in 2009. ”First they said the company paid for a trip to Hawaii. Now, supposedly there's no evidence of that. Now, they're saying he paid for a Jamaica trip. It's tough for me to recall that because that was right after Katrina. That was November after Hurricane Katrina. Everything from there is a blur.”
NetMethods is a company that city vendor Mark St. Pierre headed. St. Pierre was found guilty on 53 counts of conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and money-laundering in 2011. He was accused of bribing Meffert with hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to land a multi-million dollar no-bid contract with the City of New Orleans.
It is unknown whether St. Pierre is assisting prosecutors. “We have no information that Mr. St. Pierre at this time is cooperating with the government or has ever cooperated with the government. He is away at a federal penitentiary right now,” said Foret.
After St. Pierre was found guilty in 2011, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said, “This investigation is not over. There is no shortage of other investigations like it that are underway in which we fully intend to unmask and uncover similar relationships out there between business people, corrupt business people and corrupt public officials.”