NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A businessman who could be a government witness at a trial for former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was jailed Tuesday, accused of violating the terms of his release on bond in a separate bribery case.
New Orleans resident Aaron Bennett was indicted in Mississippi on a charge he bounced an $11,080 check at a Gulfport casino where he was gambling in November 2011, according to a court filing. Bennett was prohibited from entering a casino or gambling while he was free on bond and awaiting his sentencing by a federal judge in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
A report by a pretrial services officer said Bennett didn’t get permission to travel to Gulfport less than a month after he pleaded guilty to paying $30,000 in bribes to former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Irvin “Jiff” Hingle.
Bennett, who is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 13, was arrested Tuesday and led into a courtroom in handcuffs. U.S. Magistrate Joseph Wilkinson ordered him detained pending a hearing Friday on whether his bond should be revoked.
Bennett faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison after pleading guilty in October 2011 to bribery and conspiracy charges. Hingle was sentenced last month to nearly four years in prison for his role in the bribery plot.
Bennett owned Benetech LLC, which oversaw construction of a jail in Plaquemines Parish. Bennett paid Hingle three separate bribes in exchange for approving and paying invoices submitted by Bennett’s company, prosecutors said.
Bennett’s arrest comes as federal prosecutors prepare to try their case against Nagin, who is charged with accepting bribe money, payoffs and gratuities from contractors in exchange for helping them secure millions of dollars in work for the city.
Nagin’s indictment in January accuses him of accepting more than $160,000 in bribes and truckloads of free granite for his family business in exchange for promoting the interests of local businessman Frank Fradella, who secured millions of dollars in city contract work.
Bennett told The Times-Picayune that he introduced Nagin to Fradella specifically to help the mayor get Home Depot granite installation work for a business that he and his sons founded.
Nagin’s trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 7.