Posted: Feb 23, 2012 6:23 PM by Stephanie Ryan
Updated: Feb 23, 2012 6:45 PM
BATON ROUGE - Former St. Gabriel Mayor George Grace admitted today in federal court he lied to FBI agents and even kept things from his wife during an investigation into his activities as mayor.
Grace faces extortion, fraud, racketeering and bribery charges stemming from the FBI's undercover sting, "Operation: Blighted Officials." Investigators accused Grace of using his official position as mayor to land a contract with a fake garbage can cleaning company, taking thousands of dollars in bribes in the process.
Grace admitted to the jury Thursday afternoon he put a $641 suite at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans on a city credit card, then turned in the receipt to the city. But Grace said he had no idea until the trial started that he had used the city credit card instead of his own personal credit card.
Prosecutor Corey Amundson asked Grace how he could confuse the two.
"If you thought you had put it on your personal credit card, then why are you submitting receipts to the city?" Amundson asked.
Over and over, Grace said "I made a mistake," then added that he does submit personal expenses to the city from time to time.
Grace admitted taking thousands of dollars from Baton Rouge businessman Blaine Efferson. He said he used that money for his campaign and never reported it. Grace admitted breaking state campaign finance laws, but said he did so because Efferson had a client in St. Gabriel who "hated" Grace, and Efferson did not want the client to know about the money.
Grace then said he lied about that money to FBI agents because he did not want them to think it was a kickback. That's exactly what the feds call it.
Grace even kept the money from his wife, saying "It wasn't my wife's business."
Prosecutors spent nearly an hour going over and over a letter Grace authorized supporting Cifer 5000. The letter reads "I have presented this issue to the city council, and each of the members has expressed support in engaging in your services." Grace admitted the council never voted on the issue, but told the jury he never read the letter and couldn't be fully responsible for it since his secretary sent it out.
Then, jurors heard a taped conversation with an undercover FBI agent, where Grace says he read the letter and had no problem with it.
Prosecutors are trying to tear down Grace's credibility. They will continue questioning Grace Friday. Then, the defense will get another chance to question Grace.