Businessman who testified against ex-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin sentenced to 1 year in prison

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NEW ORLEANS — A businessman who specialized in disaster recovery and bribed former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin with more than $150,000 in cash and gifts to steer work his way after Hurricane Katrina was sentenced Wednesday to a year in prison.

Frank Fradella pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiracy to commit bribery in Nagin's corruption case, and he pleaded guilty in a separate securities fraud matter involving a Dallas company.

Fradella's testimony was key to getting convictions in 14 of the 20 counts Nagin was found guilty of, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Randall Smith and Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Pickens stood on either side of Fradella and urged leniency from the judge.

"I've yet to run into a cooperator who was as helpful as Mr. Fradella," Pickens said.

Nagin is serving a 10-year sentence for bribery, fraud and money laundering that spanned his two terms as mayor from 2002-2010, including a period of chaos and slow recovery from catastrophic flooding after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In addition to prison time, Fradella was fined $10,000. His attorney Randall Smith said Fradella is bankrupt and the scandal resulting from his Texas business dealings and the Nagin bribery would follow him for the rest of his life.

"I have no excuse for my actions," Fradella, 59, told U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan. A handful of his friends and family were in the mostly empty courtroom.

Fradella's testimony spanned two days during Nagin's February 2014 trial. He testified he arranged to get $50,000 to Nagin when the mayor said he needed money to support a family home improvement business called Stone Age. Fradella also said he paid Nagin off with free granite for the business and prosecutors also outlined tens of thousands of dollars in other payments from Fradella to Nagin.

Fradella's securities fraud case stemmed from his time as CEO of Home Solutions of America Inc., a firm that specialized in recovery from natural disasters. Prosecutors said he filed false reports about the corporation's revenue, misleading government watchdogs and investors.

Since the trial ended, Rodney Williams, another city vendor who pleaded guilty in the case and testified against Nagin, was sentenced to a year and a day. Greg Meffert, the city technology chief under Nagin, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years for his role in City Hall corruption.

Prosecutors have argued strongly for low sentences for those who cooperated in the case against Nagin but the court record also showed Fradella has his detractors. Filed Tuesday was a note, hand-scrawled on a financial statement, urging a harsh sentence. "As an investor who was cheated out of $52,279.51 from my retirement account, I can only hope Frank Fradella is sentenced harshly for what he did to me and others," the note said.

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