Staff and wire reports

NEW ORLEANS -- A businessman awaiting sentencing for bribing a former Plaquemines Parish sheriff -- who is also a government witness against former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin -- is in jail for allegedly violating the terms of his release on bond.

A court filing Tuesday says Aaron Bennett was wanted in Mississippi on a charge he bounced an $11,080 check at a Gulfport casino where he was gambling in November 2011.

Bennett was prohibited from entering a casino or gambling while he was free on bond after his conviction for bribing then Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle.

A pretrial services officer says Bennett didn't get permission to travel to Gulfport less than a month after he pleaded guilty to paying $30,000 in bribes to Hingle after the sheriff approved and paid invoices submitted by Bennett's company.

Friends of Bennett's tell Eyewitness News that he has been struggling with a gambling habit, and he's been seen at the Fair Grounds racetrack even while he awaits sentencing.

In the days before he turned himself in on the Mississippi warrant, sources tell WWL-TV that Bennett was trying to get a large influx of money by selling state film tax credits. Bennett established several film production companies for himself and his fourth wife, Martha Russell, when he was forced to give up control of his construction company, Benetech.

Bennett is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 13 for his guilty plea in the bribery case. His sentencing has been pushed back several times over the last two years because the government wants Bennett to testify about his role in an alleged corruption conspiracy with Nagin.

Bennett told investigative reporter David Hammer in 2011 that he provided a private jet for Nagin, his wife and others to travel to the January 2007 NFC Championship Game between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears in Chicago, so he could get close to the mayor.

Bennett claims he then introduced Nagin to Frank Fradella to help Nagin's family granite company Stone Age LLC get business with The Home Depot. Fradella has since pleaded guilty to providing Nagin with a $50,000 kickback and free granite in exchange for special treatment as a vendor in Nagin's City Hall.

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