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Former New Orleans mayor faces 21 federal corruption charges

Mayor Nagin testifies

(CNN) — Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who captured the drama of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with an “SOS” call to the nation, was indicted Friday on 21 federal corruption charges, including bribery, money laundering, fraud and filing false tax returns.

Nagin allegedly defrauded the city through “a bribery and kickback scheme” in which he received checks, cash, wire transfers, personal services and free travel from businessmen seeking favorable treatment, the 25-page federal indictment says.

Among the conspiracy charges is an accusation that Nagin awarded “no bid” work to a city contractor who provided “concealed and direct campaign monies” to Nagin, the indictment says.

Nagin allegedly received bribes from city contractors in the amounts of $60,000, $2,250, $50,000, $10,000, the indictment says.

He also is accused of receiving a bribe in the form of granite inventory from a city construction contractor.

Nagin faces nine counts of honest service wire fraud, alleging he received nine wire transfers amounting to $12,500 each that were bribes or kickback payoffs from the same city construction contractor in 2010 and 2011, the indictment says.

In his 2005 tax return — the same year that Katrina hit the Gulf coast — Nagin allegedly filed a false tax return claiming his income was $156,278, the indictment says.

He is also accused of filing false returns for 2006 listing his income at $170,364, for 2007 with an income of $31,163, and for 2008 with a $143,852 income, the indictment said.

In 2005, as Katrina became the single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history, Nagin took center stage on behalf of victims when he excoriated the slow pace of federal and state relief efforts, even using profanities.

Nagin, who is black, urged the reconstruction of a “chocolate New Orleans,” adding, “You can’t have New Orleans no other way.” He later apologized, saying everyone is welcome to the city.

The hurricane slammed the Gulf coast in 2005 and killed 1,833 people, directly or indirectly, in five states. Damages totaled $108 billion, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Current New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who won election in 2010 when term limits kept Nagin out of the race, said the charges mark “a sad day for the city of New Orleans.”

“Today’s indictment of former Mayor Ray Nagin alleges serious violations of the public’s trust,” Landrieu said in a prepared statement. “Public corruption cannot and will not be tolerated.”

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