NEW ORLEANS -- A federal grand jury indicted two Maryland men who were hired by former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to manage $15.5 million in foreign investments after Hurricane Katrina to build a hotel and conference center in Algiers and support other local jobs.
Instead, William “Bart” Hungerford Jr. and Timothy Milbrath, allegedly raided the investments for themselves.
Some local jobs were created at PJ’s Coffeehouses, Maurepas Foods and other local businesses with money from 31 foreign investors seeking U.S. immigration visas under the so-called EB-5 program, but none of those counted toward the investors’ goals under EB-5, and the Algiers project, the focal point of the visa deal, never came to fruition. Federal prosecutors allege Hungerford and Milbrath committed fraud against the investors and federal immigration officials to pocket millions.
The eight-count criminal indictment mirrors allegations made by the 31 foreign investors, who each gave $500,000 and were promised green cards if they each created 10 jobs in New Orleans. The fraud allegations were first reported by WWL-TV in January 2013.
The investors’ lawsuit alleged Hungerford and Milbrath, who served as a military aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, redirected more than $6 million into their own companies, including $1.82 million to their and their wives’ salaries over just 18 months. Meanwhile, the Algiers property where they broke ground with fanfare in 2010, has now sat abandoned along General deGaulle Drive for eight years.
The indictment alleges Hungerford and Milbrath used a company called NobleOutreach to run New Orleans’ EB-5 job-creation program, but then wrote checks from those funds to a series of other companies they created that were not creating any jobs. Prosecutors allege they created those companies “to obscure and conceal the path of investor funds, and they allegedly spent investor funds to purchase vacation and rental properties for their own benefit.”
Meanwhile, the investors who were promised quick green cards watched helplessly as their visas expired and had to fight to avoid deportation.