NEW ORLEANS -- Former city vendor Frank Fradella joined the ranks of people who testified against former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, saying he gave the then-mayor lavish gifts such as trips in exchange for landing city business contracts.
On the witness stand, Fradella, who pleaded guilty in July 2012 to securities fraud and conspiracy to bribe an unnamed official known to be Nagin, described how he helped Aaron Bennett set up a plane ride in 2007 to Chicago and Las Vegas to get close to Nagin for city work.
Bennett, the founder of the Benetech, a company which got post-Katrina contracts making emergency placards, clearing flooded cars and then landed bigger deals in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, pleaded guilty to bribing the sheriff of Plaquemines Parish. He would sold the company to Fradella, but was left off the witness list for the federal trial.
The plane ride to Chicago was for the NFC Championship Game between the New Orleans Saints and the Bears. Eyewitness News reporter David Hammer was able to get an exclusive interview with Bennett, during which he admitted the details of the plane trip.
Friday, Fradella testified he met the mayor in Chicago and Nagin thanked him for the trip, adding "The mayor’s family and himself were looking for opportunities to get granite work." He testified he was looking for city contracts and would give Nagin's company granite work in exchange.
"The work we would provide, should it need granite services, would be provided by the mayor’s company," Fradella recalled on the witness stand. The relationship between the former mayor and Fradella got closer after the Chicago meeting, with Fradella testifying Nagin gave him his BlackBerry PIN so they could text in private.
Nagin, according to Fradella, helped get business deals for him and his company and "eventually he asked me for money," Fradella said in court, testifying that Nagin asked him for $100,000 because "he (Nagin) said his granite business was in trouble."
When Fradella told Nagin he could pay his company, Stone Age, $50,000, "he (Nagin) was happy," Fradella said.
Ultimately, Fradella testified a bank extended Fradella's fledgeling company's credit line to $40 million due to Nagin's endorsement at a March 2007 meeting with the bank.