Former White Castle Mayor Sentenced to 10 Years in Operation Blighted Officials
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 12, 2011|
BATON ROUGE, LA—United States Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux, Jr. announced that, as part of Operation Blighted Officials, Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson sentenced Maurice B. Brown, age 46, of White Castle, Louisiana, to 120 months’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release after imprisonment of two years, and forfeiture of $5,513.
Brown’s sentence was based on his corrupt activities while serving as the mayor of White Castle, Louisiana. In February 2011, following a seven-day jury trial, Brown was convicted of 11 counts of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, engaging in mail and wire fraud, and using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering.
Brown was convicted of taking and soliciting a stream of bribes spanning an 18-month period from businessmen seeking a contract with the Town of White Castle. During that period, Brown solicited specific bribes on approximately 15 separate occasions and made non-specific solicitations on countless other occasions. The businessmen were introduced to Brown by a fellow mayor who had identified Brown as corrupt. Unbeknownst to Brown and the fellow mayor, the businessmen were working undercover for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In exchange for the bribes, Brown used his position as mayor to promote and obtain money for a conceptual product known as the “Cifer 5000.” The Cifer was marketed as an automated waste container cleaning system using specially designed and equipped trucks to clean and sanitize commercial and residential waste containers. The following are examples of Brown’s corrupt activities concerning the Cifer.
In the fall of 2008, in exchange for a bribe, Brown provided the businessmen with an official letter of support for the Cifer. In the letter, Brown falsely represented that each member of the town council supported the notion of contracting for the Cifer 5000. In fact, the town council knew nothing of the Cifer 5000. Brown believed that the false letter would be used to cause private investors to provide the Cifer with an additional $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 in funding.
In the fall of 2009, in exchange for a bribe, Brown provided the businessmen with an official letter of support for the Cifer. The letter was addressed to the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Brown believed the businessmen would submit the letter to the EPA to secure a grant for the Cifer worth $3,000,000.
In the spring of 2010, in exchange for a bribe, Brown agreed to use his position as mayor to secure a contract for the Cifer with his municipality and other public entities, such as the parish. Brown did so with the understanding that he would receive a 10 percent kickback from any such contracts.
In addition to taking bribes to assist the Cifer, Brown solicited and took bribes from the businessmen in exchange for providing confidential law enforcement information through the White Castle Police Department. Specifically, Brown used his position and his relationship with his brother (the Chief of Police) to fraudulently obtain and provide the businessmen with confidential law enforcement information originating from an FBI database in West Virginia.
U.S. Attorney Cazayoux stated: “Today’s sentence reflects the seriousness of public corruption, particularly when it involves an elected official. Such corruption greatly erodes the public’s confidence in government and public institutions. Our office, together with the FBI and other law enforcement partners, will continue to aggressively pursue corruption wherever it is found using any and all lawful and appropriate investigative techniques.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge David Welker stated: “We place great trust in our elected officials, trust that they will maintain and display ethical and lawful conduct and not seek to line their own pockets at the expense of the taxpayer. Maurice Brown was convicted by a jury which spoke loudly, ‘We will no longer tolerate this type of conduct by our elected officials.’ The FBI and our partners will continue to aggressively pursue allegations of corruption.”
The status of the other defendants in Operation Blighted Officials is as follows:
- Johnny Johnson: On July 23, 2010, the former city councilman of Port Allen, Louisiana, was convicted after pleading guilty to using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. Johnson faces up to five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. He will be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson on a date to be determined.
- Thomas A. Nelson, Jr.: On June 22, 2011, the former mayor of New Roads, Louisiana, was convicted by a federal jury following an 11-day trial of seven counts of violating RICO, engaging in honest services wire fraud, using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering, and making false statements to the FBI. He faces up to 65 years’ imprisonment and a $1,750,000 fine. He will be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson on a date to be determined.
- Derek A. Lewis: On June 28, 2011, the former mayor of Port Allen, Louisiana, was convicted after pleading guilty to violating RICO. Based on his acceptance of responsibility and cooperation, the United States has agreed to a sentence of not more than five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. He will be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson on a date to be determined.
- Frederick W. Smith: The chief of police for Port Allen, Louisiana, has been charged by a federal grand jury with 11 counts of violating RICO, engaging in honest services wire and mail fraud, and using an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. If convicted, Smith faces up to 130 years’ imprisonment and a $2,750,000 fine. His trial is set to begin on October 19, 2011, before U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson.
- George L. Grace, Sr.: The former mayor of St. Gabriel, Louisiana, has been charged by a federal grand jury with 11 counts of violating RICO, bribery involving a federally funded entity, making false statements, obstruction of justice, honest services mail and wire fraud, and use of an interstate facility in aid of racketeering. If convicted, Grace faces up to 180 years’ imprisonment and a $2,750,000 fine. His trial is set to begin in Baton Rouge on January 23, 2012, before U.S. District Judge Maurice Hicks of the Western District of Louisiana who will be handling the matter as a visiting judge.
This matter is part of Operation Blighted Officials, an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office with assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General. This matter was prosecuted by Senior Deputy Criminal Chief Corey R. Amundson and Senior Litigation Counsel M. Patricia Jones.