St. Gabriel mayor pleads not guilty in federal court
The mayor of St. Gabriel pleaded not guilty in federal court today following a wide-ranging racketeering and corruption investigation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge unsealed an indictment against George Grace yesterday for 11 counts of racketeering, bribery and mail fraud, among other charges.
The indictment alleged Grace took bribes and tried to extort officials as part of a fictitious scheme called Cifer 5000 set up by federal agents as part of an investigation known as Operation Blighted Officials.
Authorities also said Grace tried to bring a FEMA trailer park project to St. Gabriel in exchange for cash following Hurricane Katrina and that he took almost $20,000 from the city's bank account to invest in a personal project then tried to cover it up.
It all came after members of the St. Gabriel city council appeared before a grand jury yesterday morning. If convicted of the charges, Grace could face up to 180 years in prison and up to a $2.75 million fine.
Three other local mayors and two police chiefs have also been indicted and a former city council man in Port Allen has pleaded guilty as part of this investigation.
Grace’s next court date has not been set yet.