BATON ROUGE, LA—United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr., announced the results of another significant sentence imposed in Operation Blighted Officials. Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson sentenced DEREK A. LEWIS, age 52, of Port Allen, Louisiana, to 40 months’ imprisonment, two years’ supervised release following imprisonment, and forfeiture of $18,990. LEWIS was sentenced after having pled guilty to violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act based on his corrupt activity while mayor of the City of Port Allen, Louisiana.
This matter is part of Operation Blighted Officials, an investigation utilizing undercover operations to determine the extent and scope of public corruption involving former St. Gabriel Mayor George L. Grace, Sr. As part of the operation, individuals working undercover for the FBI posed as businessmen (hereinafter referred to as “the Businessmen”) affiliated with a company involved in the development of a conceptual product known as the “Cifer 5000.” The Cifer 5000 was marketed as an automated waste container cleaning system using specially designed and equipped trucks to clean and sanitize commercial and residential waste containers. Its potential customer pool was represented to be governmental entities, such as municipalities.
During his guilty plea, LEWIS admitted that, during the period from October 2008 through June 2010, he used his position as mayor to take actions favorable to the Businessmen, including the promotion of the Cifer 5000 in the city and elsewhere, in exchange for cash and other things of value totaling over $15,000. LEWIS admitted that such official actions included (1) writing a false official letter of support which he believed would be used to secure millions of dollars in private investor capital; (2) writing a false official letter of support which he believed would be used to convince other public officials to contract with the Cifer 5000; (3) agreeing to propose a city ordinance favorable to the Cifer 5000 project; (4) writing an official letter of support which he believed would be provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in connection with a multi-million-dollar grant request; (5) providing access to confidential law enforcement information through the chief of police; and (6) guaranteeing that the Cifer 5000 would receive a contract with the city.
At today’s sentencing, the court and the United States recognized the seriousness of the criminal conduct, while also crediting LEWIS for having been the first and only mayor in Operation Blighted Officials to accept responsibility, cooperate with the investigation, and pled guilty. Because of such favorable actions, the court sentenced LEWIS to a sentence much less than he would otherwise have faced.
The status of the other Operation Blighted Officials defendants is:
■Johnny Johnson: In July 2010, the former member of the Port Allen City Council pled guilty to using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering and agreed to cooperate with authorities. Chief Judge Jackson sentenced Johnson to two years’ probation, with a condition of having to spend six months in a halfway house.
■Maurice Brown: In February 2011, the former mayor of White Castle, Louisiana, was convicted by a federal jury following a two-week trial of violating RICO, engaging in honest services wire and mail fraud, and use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. Chief Judge Jackson sentenced Brown to 120 months in prison.
■Thomas A. Nelson, Jr.: In June 2011, the former mayor of New Roads, Louisiana, was convicted by a federal jury following a two-and-a-half week trial of violating RICO, engaging in honest services wire fraud, using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering, and making false statements to the FBI. Chief Judge Jackson sentenced Nelson to 132 months in prison.
■Frederick W. Smith: In October 2011, the chief of police for Port Allen, Louisiana, was convicted by a federal jury following a two-week trial of 11 counts of violating RICO, engaging in honest services wire and mail fraud, and using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. Chief Judge Jackson sentenced Smith to 90 months in prison.
■George L. Grace, Sr.: In March 2012, the former mayor of St. Gabriel, Louisiana, was convicted by a federal jury following a six week trial of violating RICO, engaging in honest services wire and mail fraud, bribery, obstruction of justice, making false statements, and use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. U.S. District Judge Maurice Hicks detained Grace pending his sentencing scheduled in August 2012.
This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General. Operation Blighted Officials is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Corey R. Amundson, M. Patricia Jones, and Michael J. Jefferson.