Former Sheriff pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bribery
IRVIN F. HINGLE, a/k/a “JIFF” HINGLE, age 59, a resident of Belle Chasse, Louisiana, pled guilty today before U. S. District Judge Sarah R. Vance to one count of conspiracy, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten.
According to court documents, from approximately 1992 through the present, the defendant, HINGLE, was employed as the elected Sheriff of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. As the Sheriff, HINGLE was the chief law enforcement officer for Plaquemines Parish.
In 2007, 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 file annual campaign reports with the Louisiana Board of Ethics in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and to certify, among other things, information relating to campaign contributions and expenditures. According to court documents, in 2008, 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 finalized the 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.
Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, James C. Lee stated:
“We have worked hard with our federal partners to obtain the guilty plea entered today by Irvin “Jiff” Hingle. IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to working with a sense of urgency on all investigations that will bring an end to political corruption in the New Orleans area.”
David Welker, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI New Orleans Field Office stated:
“Today’s guilty plea demonstrates that there is no sector of public service immune from corruption. Sadly, today it impacts law enforcement. We appropriately hold our law enforcement officials to a higher standard, because they enforce the law, they must also adhere to it more vigorously! The FBI will continue to aggressively pursue corruption of public officials, regardless of their position.”
Speaking on today’s guilty plea, U. S. Attorney Jim Letten stated:
“Today’s conviction of an elected sheriff on bribery and other corruption charges should serve as a reminder that the honest services of our public officials is a right which citizens enjoy and not a luxury. On behalf of the citizens we serve, we will continue to demand integrity and honesty from everyone who takes an oath to serve the public, and we will relentlessly pursue those who violate their public duties.”
HINGLE faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five (5) years and/or a fine of $250,000, three (3) years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment, and a $100 special assessment. Sentencing is scheduled for March 7, 2012 at 9:30 AM.
The case was 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