GONZALES — Sorrento Councilman Randy Anny and his personal attorney, Roy Maughan Jr., were charged Thursday with illegally pocketing $77,500 of town money connected to a sewer project that town officials say was never done.
District Attorney Ricky Babin said the indictment is the result of a three-year joint investigation by the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice that began after town officials started raising questions in mid-2013 about the year-old sewer work.
According to the Ascension Parish grand jury indictment, Anny, a three-term councilman and one-time candidate for mayor, was charged with theft of the $77,500, one count of malfeasance in office, three counts of forgery and a single count of prohibited profit-splitting on the public sewer job.
Maughan, who has served as Anny’s personal attorney but who also once represented the company supposedly paid for the sewer work, was indicted on three counts of forgery and theft of the $77,500.
Anny and Maughan surrendered to deputies Thursday afternoon.
A message left at Maughan’s office late Thursday morning was not returned. Anny would not respond to questions at the jail while he waited to be booked.
Though hints of the investigation have come to light over the past three years, Ascension officials and federal officials in Baton Rouge had refused to confirm or deny the investigation’s existence until Thursday.
Babin said his office decided to seek the indictments after they were given approval to use some of the evidence collected in the case.
Officials in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge were not available for comment.
The Thursday indictment adds to Anny’s legal troubles. A federal grand jury in August charged him and his wife, Barbara Falgoust Anny, with defrauding the BP oil spill claim fund of $7,800 in 2011 over bogus oil damage to his boat.
In February 2015, FBI agents seized Anny’s boat, dubbed “Who’s Ya Daddy,” that was parked in his driveway in Sorrento but later returned it.
Anny and his wife have denied any wrongdoing.
Anny and Maughan have been at the center of the questionable sewer deal in Sorrento for more than three years.
Endowed with check writing authority as mayor pro tem while then-Mayor Wilson Longanecker Jr. was on medical leave, Anny signed a $77,500 check on July 6, 2012, for the sewer work. The check was made out to Design and Build Consultants, a company that Maughan represented at the time. The advance payment came without a council vote but under a 7-month-old council directive for emergency sewer repairs.
The indictment says the three forgery charges are the result of Maughan and Anny fraudulently submitting bids for three companies for the sewer job.
The bid they submitted on behalf of Design & Build Consultants LLC “won” the job, and 11 days after the fraudulent bids were submitted, Anny cut the check.
Questions about the sewer job came to light in mid-2013 when Mayor Mike Lambert and four council members came into office. They claimed Design and Build and its subcontractor, H&O Investments LLC, never did the sewer repairs under Main Street near Trabeaux and Braud streets, sparking the Sheriff’s Office investigation, town officials have said.
Also they were unable to find a written contract in their records.
The $77,500 check Anny signed describes the payment as a deposit and was a portion of the $142,000 job.
The town in 2015 sued the two companies hired to fix the sewer, along with Maughan, who represented Design & Build, and others who were involved in the project. The suit questions the validity of the deal between the town and the two companies and whether the town’s payment was legal.
A lawyer who now represents Design and Build in the Sorrento lawsuit was not able to comment Thursday because he had not seen the indictment.
Maughan has said the payment was for mobilization, though state contractor groups say advance payments in public works contracting are unusual and risky for local governments.
Maughan, who has represented Anny in separate civil legal matters, has said the mayor stopped sewer work in mid-2013 just as the job was about to start, which was about a year after the company was hired.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.