December 11th, 2009
This marks the third set of indictments in the past two months of cronies and companies associate with Ray Nagin: Meffert/St. Pierre, HSOA/Frank Fradella, and now Ben Edwards/O.C. Coleman. One more would make a perfect box around him….
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten will hold a news conference this afternoon to announce “developments in a public corruption matter,” his office announced Friday morning.
A news release stated that no additional details would be available until a 3 p.m. news conference at the federal courthouse. But sources close to the case say the target is Benjamin Edwards, a 9th Ward minister and longtime member of the Sewerage & Water Board who spent $270,000 on New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s 2006 re-election campaign.
The government believes Edwards received kickbacks totaling as much as $2 million from companies that performed work for the water board, the sources say. The money was routed through Edwards’ Third Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, located on Piety Street in the Desire neighborhood, the sources say.
The money came from two main S&WB contractors: JLJ Construction LLC, based in Gentilly and owned by James L. Jones of New Orleans, and Management Construction Consultant Inspection LLC, or MCCI, a company that was formed by politically active pastor Bishop Oliver “O.C.” Coleman a few months after Hurricane Katrina.
Edwards, 55, is a familiar face to City Hall insiders. He is by far the longest-serving member of the 13-member water board, having been appointed 20 years ago by Mayor Sidney Barthelemy. Though new mayors typically stack the board with allies, Edwards was reappointed by Mayor Marc Morial. His current term expired in late 2003, but Nagin has allowed him to continue serving without a reappointment.
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