Brendan McCarthy / Eyewitness News
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NEWORLEANS- A former New Orleans police officer who once served as former Mayor Ray Nagin's bodyguard pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to tax evasion.

Maurice Palmer pleaded guilty to a single count of tax evasion as part of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors. He faces a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison, though he'll likely get far more lenient sentence in light ofhis plea deal.

Palmer acknowledged that he failed to file federal income tax returns in 2006, 2007 and 2008. He also signed a false Internal Revenue Service form with the NOPD. By doing this, no taxes were withheld on his city paychecks, according to court records.

Palmer agreed to pay back more than $30,000 he owes to the IRS. As part of his plea agreement, he must also submit to interviews and assist the government in any investigation of criminal conduct.

Palmer worked at the NOPD from 1987 through 2009. An NOPD spokeswoman said Palmer resigned under investigation shortly after he failed a drug test.

Palmer made headlines in 2000 after he was accused of firing a gun in the air while ringing in the New Year. This allegedly occurred while the NOPD was on a crackdown of such actions, trying to thwart falling bullet injuries.

The District Attorney's office eventually decided not to pursue criminal charges because of problems with the lone witness in the case, according to published reports.

In 2002, Palmer received a medal of commendation from the NOPD. He also served in the canine unit and worked as a hostage negotiator for the SWAT unit.

Palmer could not be reached for comment Thursday.

He is scheduled to be sentenced March 7.

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