FORMER CONTRACTOR FOR THE PLAQUEMINES PARISH SHERIFF’S OFFICE CHARGED WITH BRIBERY AND CONSPIRACY
AARON BENNETT, age 42, a New Orleans resident, was charged today with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten and FBI Special Agent-in-Charge David Welker. This action coincides with charges filed today against Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Irvin Frederick Hingle, Jr. (“Sheriff Hingle”) in a separate Bill of Information.
According to the Bill of Information, BENNETT, through his company Benetech, LLC, entered into a contract with the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office on October 1, 2007 to provide project management services. Beginning in or near March, 2008, BENNETT began bribing Sheriff Hingle. On the first occasion, BENNETT made a $10,000 cash payoff to Sheriff Hingle shortly after Sheriff Hingle approved and paid invoices BENNETT had submitted to the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office. Next, in or near April, 2008, BENNETT again bribed Sheriff Hingle with a $10,000 cash payoff shortly after Sheriff Hingle approved and paid invoices BENNETT had submitted to the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office. Finally, on August 3, 2011, BENNETT made another $10,000 cash payoff to Sheriff Hingle in order to influence Sheriff Hingle to approve and make payment on invoices BENNETT had submitted to the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The funding for this and other Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office projects stemmed from the United States Government as part of the recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina.
Based on the charges in the Bill of Information, BENNETT faces a combined term of imprisonment of fifteen (15) years, criminal forfeiture and fines.
FBI Special Agent in Charge David Welker added:
“Today’s Bill of Information once again signifies that no one is above the law. Bribery will always destroy loyalty and trust and displace decisions that would otherwise be based on merit. The FBI with our partners will continue to vigorously investigate those individuals and schemes designed to unlawfully enrich public officials and corrupt businessmen.”
U. S. Attorney Letten reiterated that a Bill of Information is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
U. S. Attorney Jim Letten acknowledges the contribution of the Metropolitan Crime Commission in bringing this matter to the attention of the federal law enforcement authorities, and notes that the outstanding work of the MCC along with the members of the press in rooting out corruption, enables law enforcement authorities in both the local and federal spheres to protect the free enterprise and the public institutions which serve our citizens.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Matthew M. Coman and Richard R. Pickens, II.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of storm victims or have knowledge of waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll free at: (866) 720-5721. You can also fax information to: (225) 334-4707 or e-mail it to: email@example.com