19 Jan 2013

Katrina mayor charged with accepting bribes

4:15 pm on 19 January 2013

The mayor who led New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Ray Nagin, has been charged with 21 federal counts of wire fraud, bribery, filing false tax returns and money laundering.

Mr Nagin, 56, who was mayor from 2002 to 2010, came to America-wide attention when Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005.

Prosecutors say that, beginning in June 2004, he took payments, travel and other gratuities in exchange for city contracts and other favours.

"Mayor Nagin used his public office and his official capacity to provide favorable treatment that benefitted the business and financial interests of individuals providing him bribery/kickback payoffs," the indictment reads.

It's alleged he accepted more than $200,000 in bribes from local businessman Frank Fradella in exchange for helping Fradella to secure millions of dollars of city contracts in the wake of Katrina, including construction at the airport and sidewalk repair projects.

Mr Nagin is also charged with accepting payoffs worth at least $75,000 from another businessman, Rodney Williams, who was given consulting and construction contracts with the city.

Fradella and Williams have already pleaded guilty in connection with the case and are expected to testify against the former mayor, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Free travel in private jets alleged

The indictment alleges that over the course of his time in office, Mr Nagin travelled with his family to Hawaii and Jamaica on trips paid for by local businessmen.

He accepted free travel by private jet to Chicago, Las Vegas and New York City, according to the indictment.

Mr Nagin was a cable television executive before he entered public life in 2002. He was re-elected in 2006 but a subsequent surge in violent crime, the slow pace of post-Katrina reconstruction and the burgeoning corruption scandal at city hall undermined his popularity.

Since leaving office in 2010 he has stayed out of the political spotlight and has reportedly relocated to Dallas, Texas.