NEW ORLEANS — A former Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office contractor on Tuesday was charged in a bribery and bid-rigging scheme at the local jail, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Richard Molenaar III, whose companies did air-conditioning and other work at the jail, faces charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, according to court documents.
Molenaar, 47, joins two prison officials who already have pleaded guilty and are helping authorities with their investigation.
Former OPSO purchasing director John Sens and former maintenance chief Gerard Hoffman Jr. have admitted to taking kickbacks for rigging bids for Molenaar and other jail contractors.
According to court documents, Molenaar was the owner of several maintenance and construction companies that between 2008 and 2011 bid on maintenance jobs at the OPSO.
His main point of contact at the Sheriff’s Office was Sens. According to a bill of information filed in federal court, Molenaar and several others, including Sens, engaged in a rigged bidding process for several OPSO maintenance jobs.
When Molenaar would submit bids for work at the jail, Sens would submit phony bids for the same projects in the names of other local companies in an effort to give the appearance of a competitive bidding project, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
In many cases the phony bids would be intentionally higher than the bids from Molenaar, and Sens would then award the work to Molenaar, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
In exchange for the alleged rigged bidding process, according to court documents, Molenaar gave Sens various gifts or free services, including about $30,000 in cash as well as digging and installing a pool at Sens’ home.
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has said that his office is assisting federal authorities with their investigation.
If convicted, Molenaar faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison with three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.