George Grace: 'I'm not devastated by this'
St. Gabriel Mayor George Grace said he can defend himself against the charges he's facing. Grace is indicted on 11 counts with consequences ranging from almost two centuries in jail to $3 million in fines.
Grace said he predicts he can get out of charges related to schemes to make money off a trailer park for Katrina victims, retail outlets and business deals for Saint Gabriel then trying to cover up his pay-offs.
One of the allegations is obstruction of justice-- trying to hide being paid off in exchange for city business. It includes quotes from Grace saying to a Baton Rouge businessman, "You don't want to tell 'em you gave me no cash."
"The man had given me campaign donations that he wanted off the record," said Grace, "and then when something else happened, now you all of a sudden, he's panicking, he wants me to do something. What am I supposed to do?"
Grace said he's not sure what to do when it comes to the Cifer 5000 scheme. The indictment said he was paid to pave the way to other public officials who would buy into the bogus garbage can cleaning product. The document said he did that six times.
"They came to me and portrayed themselves as struggling business people who needed my help to do something, and then in essence, trap me into something that I really had no interest in," said Grace.
People in St. Gabriel said they're mad.
"You pay your property taxes continuously, and you know, you're trying to get your streets fixed, and then this. And it makes you kind of angry," said resident Tigue Bonneval.
Grace said he'll make it through.
"I think that I'll be able to defend myself in a court of law and come out victorious," said Grace.
Investigators said this case is not over but wouldn't indicate whether more people are being targeted or if more charges are on the way.
Grace's indictment makes the seventh in Operation Blighted Officials. They include New Roads Mayor Tommy Nelson, White Castle Mayor Maurice Brown, White Castle Police Chief Mario Brown, Port Allen Mayor Derrick Lewis and Port Allen Police Chief Fred Smith.
Former Port Allen City council man Johnny Johnson pleaded guilty in the case.