NEW ORLEANS -- One of the developers of a key riverfront project who sought former Mayor Ray Nagin’s help with his billion-dollar effort funneled $100,000 in allegedly illegal payments to Nagin.
Michael Samuel, who co-owned the Market Street power plant and sought to redevelop it in meetings with Nagin and city contractor Frank Fradella, is not mentioned by name in the grand jury indictment of Nagin.
But Eyewitness News has learned that Samuel was the conduit for eight monthly payments of $12,500 to Nagin that the indictment says were “arranged” by Fradella.
Fradella pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to bribe Nagin. Samuel has not been charged with any crime, but his fingerprints are all over the case.
And it’s yet another example of how Nagin allegedly tried to hide his business arrangements.
For example, the feds say Fradella tried to disguise a $50,000 payment to Nagin by allegedly having Michael McGrath, the chairman of Fradella’s Home Solutions of America, transfer the money to Nagin’s countertop company, Stone Age LLC.
Similarly, Fradella and Samuel worked together and Fradella allegedly had Samuel set up an agreement with Nagin’s post-mayoral consulting firm, CRN Initiatives.
According to the Nagin indictment, the former mayor got $112,500 from Fradella between July 2010 and March 2011. Allegedly, the first payment of $12,500 came from Fradella on July 20, and another eight payments started in August and were “arranged” by Fradella.
Public securities filings show that Samuel’s company, Green Energy Management Services, signed the consulting agreement with Nagin’s CRN eight days later. And from that point on, the monthly payments of $12,500 came from Green Energy Management.
The company also sent Nagin to Jamaica in September 2010 to speak at a green energy conference there.
Samuel and Fradella wanted to turn the old, hulking power plant into a mixed-use residential, retail, museum and outdoor venue. They met with Nagin, and, according to the indictment, Nagin met with Home Solutions investors on March 12, 2007, to pledge his support for the company’s dealings with the city.
Shortly thereafter, Fradella wrote in an email that he thought he had a $650 million deal in place for the major redevelopment work.
The plans never got off the ground and the property ended up in bankruptcy. But even after Nagin left office in May 2010, he was still in the conversation with the power plant.
A partner of Samuel’s in the ownership of the property, Stuart “Neil” Fisher, wrote in an email that Nagin “of course would get a piece” of a deal to sell the property.
Some other partners of Samuel’s took over the project and ushered it through bankruptcy. They claim they were duped by Samuel and have nothing to do with him anymore.
Meanwhile, Samuel is in Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy in Florida, and creditors accuse him of hiding $20 million from them. The bankruptcy trustee agrees and is conducting an investigation. A Florida court ruled that Samuel fraudulently transferred millions to his wife, Deborah, who was also involved in the green energy company.
Samuel's creditors also allege that he hid some of his riches by sending $450,000 to Deborah Samuel's father, reputed Lucchese crime family associate Frank Arnold. Arnold, a bridge painter, was acquitted of RICO charges in New York in the 1990s during a mafia crackdown.
Meanwhile, Deborah Samuel’s first husband is Ralph Romano Jr., whose father was another reputed Lucchese associate, was convicted in 2005 of murdering his business partner.