PLAQUEMINES SHERIFF CHARGED WITH CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT MAIL FRAUD AND BRIBERY
IRVIN F. HINGLE, a/k/a “JIFF” HINGLE, age 59, a resident of Belle Chasse, Louisiana and elected Sheriff of Plaquemines Parish, was charged today in a bill of information with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery concerning a program involving federal funds, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten.
According to court documents, from approximately 1992 through the present, HINGLE, was employed as the duly-elected Sheriff of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. As the Sheriff, HINGLE was the chief law enforcement officer for Plaquemines Parish.
In 2007, according to the Bill of Information, the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office entered into a contract with Benetech, LLC (Benetech) to provide services relating to recovery from damages due to previous and future natural disasters. In early- to mid-2008, on two separate occasions, HINGLE, as the Sheriff, approved Benetech’s invoices and issued checks to Benetech in connection with work purportedly done under the 2007 contract. Within weeks of HINGLE’s approvals, W. Aaron Bennett, the owner of Benetech, paid HINGLE $10,000 in cash, on two separate occasions, for a total of $20,000 in payments, intending to influence him in connection with the contract between Benetech and the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office.
In addition, as the elected Sheriff, HINGLE was required to submit annual campaign reports with the Louisiana Board of Ethics in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and certify, among other things, information relating to campaign contributions and expenditures. In 2008, according to the Bill of Information, HINGLE solicited campaign contributions from contributors and, instead of expending those funds for campaign-related activities, HINGLE expended them for personal use, in violation of Louisiana campaign finance laws. HINGLE and others in his campaign, however, finalized their 2008 campaign finance report and mailed it to Baton Rouge, Louisiana in February 2009, falsely listing over $100,000 in expenditures as campaign-related when, in fact, they were for personal use.
Speaking on today’s charges, David Welker, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New Orleans Field Office stated:
"We place greater trust in our law enforcement officials, trust that they will maintain and display ethical and lawful conduct. No one is above the law. Conduct as detailed in the Bill of Information reduces the opportunity for fair business and severely reduces the public's trust in our elected officials. The FBI and our partners will continue to aggressively pursue allegations of corruption."
U. S. Attorney Jim Letten stated:
“Today’s charges reflect our sacred commitment in federal enforcement to maintain a zero tolerance for any public corruption, in order to preserve the rights of all of our citizens to effective government and quality of life.”
If he is convicted of the conspiracy charged against him, HINGLE, faces a maximum penalty of five (5) years imprisonment, three (3) years supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment.
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.
The case is being investigated by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Eileen Gleason and Matt Chester.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org