Louisiana news briefs
Developer sentenced in theft linked to Katrina aid
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A developer has been sentences to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to fraudulent billing of a Hurricane Katrina recovery program.
Praveen Kailas, 30, entered the plea to one count each of conspiracy to commit theft of government funds and theft of government funds on Aug. 1.
According to court records, Kailas’ charges stem from his company — Lago Construction LLC — overbilling its construction monitoring subcontract for the Louisiana Road Home’s Small Rental Property Program. The program gave money to repair properties damaged by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita.
The court found Kailas overbilled by $236,000 and ordered him to repay more than $67,000. Kailas never collected the rest of the money after it was withheld from his invoices.
Kailas’ family is a major supporter of Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Judge won’t throw out charges against Painter
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A judge has refused to throw out criminal charges against, former state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Murphy Painter.
Painter is on trial in federal court in Baton Rouge. He is fighting 32 counts of computer fraud, false statements and aggravated identity theft. He is alleged to have used confidential federal and state law enforcement databases to gather information about people unrelated to any criminal investigations.
Defense attorneys filed a motion to have the charges thrown out but that motion was dismissed Wednesday, clearing the way for the trial to continue.
Defense attorneys Michael Fawer and Al J. Robert Jr. called witnesses Wednesday who supported Painter’s pretrial allegation that several members of his ATC staff had access to his office and computer passwords.
Black woman makes
history in La. National Guard
PINEVILLE (AP) — A 32-year veteran of the military has become the first African-American female command sergeant major in the Louisiana National Guard.
Sgt. Maj. Veronica LaBeaud also is the first woman to reach that rank in the guard’s 199th Brigade Support Battalion, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
LeBeaud was promoted earlier this month in a ceremony at Camp Beauregard in Pineville.
Council shoots down
New Iberia tax proposal
NEW IBERIA (AP) — A proposal to put a new half-cent sales tax up for a vote of New Iberia residents has failed.
City Council members argued about the sales tax for more than an hour on Tuesday. A proposal by Mayor Hilda Curry got only one vote.
Curry says the city has a revenue problem, not a spending problem. She says she was looking to buy a new street sweeper and invest in roads, among other initiatives to improve the city.
Armored car guard killed
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans police say a 45-year-old armored car guard has been shot and killed as he unloaded money outside a bank.
Officer Garry Flot says three men walked up and started shooting Wednesday morning, took an undisclosed amount of money. They drove off in an SUV, which police found abandoned shortly afterward.
The man’s name was being withheld until his family could be notified. Nobody else was hurt.
Flot says police found the SUV and learned that after leaving it, the men drove off in a gray Hyundai with a temporary license plate.
Mall display pokes fun
at federal health care law
METAIRIE (AP) — Lakeside Shopping Center’s display designer is at it again.
Frank Evans, who erects a holiday display that includes model trains, is poking fun this year at the federal health care law.
Evans’ display includes an “Affordable Health Care Hospital” that includes a line of waiting people at the entrance, and a hearse and coffin at the exit.
It’s not the first time that the designer has gone after a sensitive subject. In December 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, the display raised a ruckus by including roofs covered by blue tarps and people being rescued by helicopters.
That year, mall management forced Evans to remove the display, but then brought it back after protests.
Evans says the trains are aimed at children, while the satire is aimed at adults.
New Orleans officer, teen hurt when gun goes off
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans authorities say a gun discharged as a police officer struggled with a teenage suspect he had been chasing, wounding the suspect in the groin and the police officer in the ankle.
Police say it happened around 11 p.m. Wednesday in eastern New Orleans.
Police had received calls about loitering and suspicious activity in the area. When patrol officers approached two people loitering near a store, one suspect ran away but tripped and fell. When an officer caught up to him, a struggle began. Police say the suspect had a gun, which discharged during the struggle.
Nobody else was injured. The police officer, whose name was not released, suffered a minor ankle wound.
Police said the 17-year-old suspect was hospitalized in stable condition.
Coastal research center
to be built in Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Baton Rouge will be the site of an expansive research center called The Water Campus that will serve as a hub for collaborative work on restoring wetlands and protecting coastal communities.
Louisiana officials announced the plans Tuesday, saying the 30-acre campus along the Mississippi River could create tens of thousands of new jobs and position the state as a central source for coastal research, engineering and water management expertise.
Gov. Bobby Jindal said the research center will bring public, private and academic coastal agencies to work together on solutions for sustaining wetlands and restoring the coast. Groundbreaking is set for early next year.
The site, in downtown Baton Rouge and not far from LSU, will become the home for The Water Institute of the Gulf, an independent research organization.
From The Associated Press.
It will be housed at an education research center to be built on an old dock along the Mississippi River, which will include public exhibits and meeting areas.
A river modeling center will be built for LSU to study ground and water behavior along the lower Mississippi and to draw researchers and scientists from around the globe.
The state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority also will move its 165-person staff to an office on The Water Campus.
Construction of those three facilities are expected to cost $45 million, a cost to be shared among the state, the city of Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, a community development organization. The state will donate 13 acres of property for the site.
State and local leaders expect the campus to grow much larger than the initial phase.
It will be “a hub for innovation and collaboration by assembling experts in numerous fields and sectors to develop solutions for the coastal, river and water resource challenges we face here in Louisiana, throughout the Gulf Coast and beyond,” Chip Groat, President and CEO of The Water Institute of the Gulf, said in a statement.
Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said investment in the water management effort could become an economic driver, bringing 10,000 to 20,000 direct jobs to Louisiana through 2030.
But the landmark project also is designed to help counter the devastating effects of coastal erosion in Louisiana, which has lost an estimated 1,900 square miles of land since 1932, making its communities more vulnerable to flooding and threatening the energy supply and shipping routes that are critical to the national economy.
Billions of dollars in government and private funding have been poured into efforts to restore lost wetlands, protect coastal areas and stop further erosion.