12-12-2017  11:57 am      •     
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AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

Michael Martinez CNN

(CNN) -- Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who captured the drama of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with an "SOS" call to the nation, was indicted Friday on 21 federal corruption charges, including bribery, money laundering, fraud and filing false tax returns.

Nagin allegedly defrauded the city through "a bribery and kickback scheme" in which he received checks, cash, wire transfers, personal services and free travel from businessmen seeking contracts and favorable treatment from the city, the 25-page federal indictment says.

As part of the alleged bribes, Nagin's family members received a vacation in Hawaii; first-class airfare to Jamaica; private jet travel and a limousine for New York City totaling $23,500; and cellular phone service, the indictment said.

Nagin's family-owned granite-business Stone Age LLC allegedly benefited in the corruption, too, the indictment said.

Nagin could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the indictment, the bribing businessmen allegedly received city contracts of $1 million for consulting, more than $3 million to build a project at Louis Armstrong International Airport, and $1 million for another airport project, the indictment said. Other contracts were for sidewalk repairs in the French Quarter and professional services, authorities allege.

Among the conspiracy charges is an accusation that Nagin awarded "no bid" work to a city contractor who provided "concealed and direct campaign monies" to Nagin, the indictment says.

Nagin allegedly received bribes from city contractors in the amounts of $60,000, $2,250, $50,000 and $10,000, the indictment says.

He also is accused of receiving a bribe in the form of granite inventory from a city construction contractor.

Nagin faces nine counts of honest services wire fraud, alleging he received nine wire transfers amounting to $12,500 each that were bribes or kickback payoffs from the same city construction contractor in 2010 and 2011, the indictment says. Those bribed totaled $112,500.

In his 2005 tax return -- the same year that Katrina hit the Gulf Coast -- Nagin allegedly filed a false tax return claiming his income was $156,278, the indictment says.

He is also accused of filing false returns for 2006 listing his income at $170,364, for 2007 with an income of $31,163, and for 2008 with a $143,852 income, the indictment said.

The indictment does not detail what the government claims the returns should state.

In 2005, as Katrina became the single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history, Nagin took center stage on behalf of victims when he excoriated the slow pace of federal and state relief efforts, even using profanities.

Nagin, who is black, urged the reconstruction of a "chocolate New Orleans," adding, "You can't have New Orleans no other way." He later apologized, saying everyone is welcome to the city.

In issuing a national "SOS" during Katrina, Nagin expressed the desperation of a battered Gulf Coast:

"I need reinforcements, I need troops, man. I need 500 buses, man. We ain't talking about -- you know, one of the briefings we had, they were talking about getting public school bus drivers to come down here and bus people out here," he told radio station WWL-AM.

"I'm like, 'You got to be kidding me. This is a national disaster. Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans.'

"That's -- they're thinking small, man. And this is a major, major, major deal. And I can't emphasize it enough, man. This is crazy," Nagin said then.

The hurricane slammed the Gulf Coast in 2005 and killed 1,833 people, directly or indirectly, in five states. Damages totaled $108 billion, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Current New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who won election in 2010 when term limits kept Nagin out of the race, said the charges mark "a sad day for the city of New Orleans."

In the 2006 mayoral race, Nagin beat then Lt. Gov. Landrieu, scion of a prominent Louisiana political family.

"Today's indictment of former Mayor Ray Nagin alleges serious violations of the public's trust," Landrieu said in a prepared statement. "Public corruption cannot and will not be tolerated."

CNN's Zach Cumer and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

 

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