Louisiana news briefs
Man arrested for impersonating officer in Walmart
LAKE CHARLES — Authorities say a 26-year-old Westlake man stole a relative’s deputy sheriff uniform and wore it while stealing two televisions from Walmart.
Sulphur Police Chief Lewis Coats said Gary A. Robertson was charged Tuesday with impersonating a police officer and theft over $500.
Calcasieu Sheriff Tony Mancuso says he expected theft and traffic charges to be added.
Robertson is being held on $120,000 bond set by state District Judge Robert Wyatt.
Mancuso said authorities don’t know how long Robertson had the uniform.
Developer pleads to theft linked
to Katrina aid
NEW ORLEANS — A developer, whose family is a major supporter of Gov. Bobby Jindal, has pleaded guilty in a case involving the fraudulent billing of a Hurricane Katrina recovery program.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says 30-year-old Praveen Kailas entered the plea to one count each of conspiracy to commit theft of government funds and theft of government funds on Aug. 1. U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance unsealed the case Tuesday.
The Kailas family is one of the metropolitan New Orleans area’s biggest landowners and developers. They have been close with Jindal through southeast Louisiana’s small Indian community for years. The family has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Jindal’s campaigns over the years, including office space and supplies for his victory parties.
“We have no tolerance for fraud, which is why we moved swiftly and called for investigations by the State Inspector General and Attorney General, as well as the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Jindal’s office said in a statement Tuesday.
The governor’s office said it launched an internal investigation last year, but apparently dropped it after Mark Maier, the consultant who partnered with Lago on the rental program, wrote a note absolving Lago of any wrongdoing. The HUD inspector general, however, kept working the case and the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed charges under seal in late June.
ACLU: Law banning begging is unconstitutional
SLIDELL — The American Civil Liberties Union’s Louisiana chapter says Slidell police are violating the First Amendment rights of panhandlers in the city by arresting them.
The ACLU has asked the city to immediately stop the arrests.
A police spokesman said the department is awaiting the city attorney’s advice before taking any official action.
The ACLU’s request, made in a letter sent to City Attorney Bryan Haggerty, says Slidell police have been arresting beggars based on an unconstitutional ordinance banning street peddling.
School board member convicted
LAFAYETTE — A federal jury has found St. Landry Parish School Board member Quincy Richard Sr. guilty of taking bribes for his vote in favor of a candidate seeking the parish schools’ superintendent’s post.
After a two-day trial and deliberations for about an hour, the jury Tuesday found Richard guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and two counts of bribery.
U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley said, in a news release, that Richard was shown to have conspired with fellow board member John Miller to receive bribe money from candidate Joseph Cassimere in return for their support. Miller pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery July 1.
Both men face multiple years in prison.
Sentencing dates have not been set.
Sentencing delayed in N.O. bribery case
NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge has postponed a sentencing hearing for a businessman who pleaded guilty to plotting to bribe former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
Rodney Williams was scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 25. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan rescheduled the hearing for Jan. 29, 2014.
Morgan didn’t give a reason for the delay, but Williams could be a key government witness at a trial for Nagin set for October.
Nagin is charged with accepting at least $60,000 in payoffs from Williams for his help securing city contracts for architectural, engineering and management services work. Williams pleaded guilty in December to a conspiracy charge.
Memorial service held for slain
ST. JOSEPH — A memorial service was held Tuesday outside a Tensas Parish bank in memory of two employees who died after being shot during a hostage standoff last week.
The service marked one week since 20-year-old Fuaed Abdo Ahmed walked into the Tensas State Bank branch in St. Joseph and took three employees hostage. Ahmed released one of the hostages during the negotiations, but he shot and fatally wounded LaDean McDaniel and Jay Warbington when police stormed the bank.
Ahmed was shot and killed by police.
Human skull found near Opelousas
OPELOUSAS — St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputies say a dog dug up a human skull near Opelousas.
Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said his office was contacted by the dog’s owner, who lives off La. 182 north of Opelousas.
Guidroz says detectives and cadaver dogs searched the woods near the house but could find no grave site or other remains last week.
As of now, he said police don’t even know whether the skull was that of a man or woman or even how long it might have been buried.
He said the skull has been sent to the forensic laboratory at Louisiana State University of Baton Rouge.
Texas teen drowns in Grand Caillou
HOUMA — Terrebonne Parish sheriff’s deputies say a Texas teen fell off an oyster boat in Grand Caillou last week, and his body was recovered early Saturday.
Capt. Malcolm Wolfe said Rigardo Dominguez, 19, of Texas City, Texas, fell overboard about 7 p.m. Thursday in Bayou Grand Caillou.
Wolfe says others on board the Texas-based oyster boat saw him fall and alerted authorities, who searched the water for several hours without luck, Wolfe said.
1 injury reported in explosion at plant
HARVEY — A trucker’s leg was slightly burned in an explosion at an industrial site near New Orleans, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
The Harvey Volunteer Fire Department quickly put out the fire Tuesday morning and the man was being treated at West Jefferson General Hospital, said Col. John Fortunato, spokesman for the sheriff’s office. He said the truck’s other driver, a woman, was not hurt.
The truck was in an ethanol loading area at the Kinder Morgan Energy Partners terminal in Harvey when the fire started about 11:15 a.m., company spokesman Richard Wheatley said.
The Houston-based company is investigating the cause, he said.
Cristy Finnorn says she and her daughter heard about a half-dozen explosions, none of them strong enough to shake the merchandise at her Southern Flea Boutique, and saw flames and a man being taken to an ambulance.
“It was just that boom feeling in your chest,” she said. “The first was the worst. The other ones were minor compared to that.”
According to its website, Kinder Morgan stores and transfers petrochemicals and other bulk materials at several Louisiana facilities.
From Associated Press.