Harvey Hustlers leader gets life sentence

An Avondale man was sentenced to life in federal prison Thursday for his leadership role in the murderous Harvey Hustlers gang on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish.

Harry Smoot, 29, admitted to a role in three killings, including a double murder of a couple whose children were in the back seat when the shooting occurred.

Smoot also was ordered to pay restitution to the families of his victims.

Prosecutors said Smoot led a 12-member offshoot of the Harvey Hustlers that trafficked heroin and crack cocaine.

“Today’s sentencing ensures that a violent murderer and drug trafficker will remain off of our streets for the rest of his life,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite said.

Feds: Restaurant hired undocumented workers

A Kenner restaurateur pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to employing undocumented immigrants at the La Jumbo China Buffet and to lying to federal agents.

Ke Lian Zhao, 50, admitted recruiting and hiring three workers he knew to be in the country illegally. Federal prosecutors said the restaurant provided false documents to authorities in an attempt to protect the workers’ employment.

Zhao faces up to six months behind bars, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The restaurant faces a fine of up to $500,000.

Former cab driver charged with rape

A Plaquemines Parish grand jury has indicted a former cab driver on aggravated rape charges.

Phillip Wayne Constanza, 55, a Gretna man who previously lived in Belle Chasse, is accused of repeatedly raping a girl for years, dating back to 1999, when she was 7 years old.

Authorities said forensic testing conducted by the State Police Crime Lab recently linked Constanza to the crime. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

New Orleans police probe 3 shootings

New Orleans police were investigating a string of shootings Thursday.

The first happened about 2 p.m. in the 2700 block of Bennett Street in Algiers, where a 16-year-old boy was struck by gunfire in the back of the neck. He was hospitalized for surgery, but his condition was not made public.

Another victim was shot in the foot about 4:40 p.m. at Foucher Street and Loyola Avenue in Central City.

About 7 p.m., a 19-year-old man was shot several times inside an apartment complex along the Interstate 10 Service Road in New Orleans East. He was listed in critical condition.