Today I got caught up in the year end countdown craze and decided...what the hell, I'm not above this.
So after much thought, I have put together a 2009 countdown of the sneakiest snakes in the New Orleans Metro area....also known as the Lettenman Top 10 Countdown...except there are 13...plus an honorable mention...so you figure it out.
Alright so this thing goes in ascending order from the least sneaky to the most sneaky as ordained by a panel of 1....but that one is a snake god.
Here we go:
Slithering in at number 13 comes former New Orleans School Board Member, Ellenese "Asp" Brooks-Simms.
The asp is most commonly associated with the suicide of Pharaoh Cleopatra VII of Egypt. After being told of her lover, Mark Antony's, demise, Cleopatra committed suicide by allowing the asp to bite her breast.
Ellenese became entangled with Mose Jefferson on a kickback scheme in which she endorsed a multi-million dollar software package he was peddling in exchange for cold hard cash, 140k to be exact. Ellenese testified, "I understood I would be rewarded for any influence I had and my vote." .
She later provided critical testimony in the federal trial of Mose resulting in his conviction on two counts of bribery and two counts of obstruction of justice.
In a shocking courtroom twist, Mose claimed the money was not a bribe but a gift he had given to Ellenese, seeing how he was her secret Mark Antony. The jury didn't buy it, and the word is the allegation was nothing more than a last ditch effort to discredit the witness.
Ellenese should have known better than to dance with Mose, hence her self inflicted wound earns her the Asp title and the #13 spot.
The #12 spot goes to the master of camouflage, the rarely photographed, Mark "Asian Coral Snake" St. Pierre.
While the Asian Coral Snake's bite can be potentially deadly, it has a very small mouth and tends to stay well hidden, thereby posing only a small threat to the community.
St. Pierre was indicted on over 63 counts along with former City CTO, Greg Meffert, and his wife, Linda, including conspiracy, wire fraud, bribery, money laundering, false statements, and filing false tax returns to boot.
While Meffert publicly spouted his innocence and even bared his fangs at the Times Picayune, St. Pierre wisely stayed hidden in the background...choosing stealth over bravado.
Well played, sir.
A desert climate serving as his preferred habitat, namely Texas, our # 11 entry goes to former Home Solutions of America, CEO, Frank "Western Diamondback" Fradella.
While Fradella was never actually a public figure, he certainly reaped the rewards of the Katrina recovery efforts, receiving numerous city contracts from Mayor Ray Nagin .
As it turns out, those Katrina contracts from the city may have been the only real contracts HSOA actually had. After stock holders and market analysts became suspicious that HSOA was cooking the books, the SEC launched a formal investigation and agreed with those analysts in the form of an indictment. Fradella was charged with accounting fraud in November.
HSOA has since been dissolved and its good assets and contracts moved into a new disaster capitalist company called Associated Contractors, headed by Aaron Bennett, another businessman favored by the Nagin administration in the post-K environment.
Frank earns the Western Diamondback title for his unique ability to mesmerize his prey by shaking his tail, then coming back to bite them in the ass. Not only was he a textbook example of a Naomi Klein disaster capitalist, he was a pump and dump master.
Edging out Fradella for the #10 spot is former Louisiana State Senator, Derrick "Pit Viper" Shepherd from Marrero.
A night prowler, pit vipers attack viciously if cornered. When Shepherd was queried by federal investigators if he had any knowledge of illicit activity by fellow public servants Ray Nagin, Karen Carter Peterson, and former Congressman Bill Jefferson, Derrick lashed out, "Hell no!"
As luck would have it, Sheperd, himself, was guilty of money laundering and pleaded guilty to the charges back in October of 08 (yeah I know it's not 09 but I didn't do an 08 countdown so deal with it).
At # 9, the strange case of the two headed snake known as the Mefferts.
While only one head of this chimera showed itself in the public spotlight (and man did it love to show itself) it turns out there was more than one brain behind this serpent. Greg and Linda Meffert were indicted along with Mark St. Pierre with over 63 federal counts (refer above).
The graft originated while Greg was serving as the former CTO of the city . His transgressions were well documented on this blog if you care to dig back through the catacombs. I personally don't care to wade back through that morass, but suffice to say it came as a shock to most folks when his wife, Linda, was indicted along with him...a second head...my goodness!
The first and loudest head, Greg, just couldn't seem to keep his tongue retracted and went so far as to put himself on the stand (hence on the record) for over 8 hours in the highly publicized civil suit over the city's crime cameras. He then went on to threaten a libel lawsuit against the Times Picayune for destroying his good name.... a few days later the U.S. Attorney's office grabbed the two headed snake by the tail.
If its possible for Greg to surgically separate himself from Linda, it would be the noble and wise thing to do.
It should be noted that all three conspirators, St. Pierre, Greg and Linda have pleaded innocent of the charges.
Nesting at #8, is the one, the only, Ray "Puff Adder" Nagin.
The puff adder is characterized as a rather sluggish snake, which doesn't move very fast, if at all. If threatened the puff adder will swell up like a balloon and hiss wildly...with no hesitation to strike.
While Ray Nagin has not been indicted on any charges to date, it is worth noting that he is at the center of multiple scandals, including 3 of the other items mentioned in this list. While it may be presumptuous to list Ray Ray in the 09 countdown, I choose to go ahead and do it because....well just because I want to. However I will refrain from speculating as to what tribulations may lie ahead for our mayor. Nuff said.
Proceeding without caution at #7, we recklessly cross the Causeway and come face to face with Eddie "Cottonmouth" Price.
Why Cottonmouth? Because that's what you wake up with after a night of hard drinking...and I'm guessing Eddie knows the feeling well. In fact, the former Mandeville mayor was ordered by a judge to "stay away from the bottle" as a condition of his bail after being indicted and pleading guilty to multiple charges including taking trips from contractors, illegal use of campaign funds to pay gambling debts, and I think perjury (not sure).
Eddie earns the number 7 spot because the truth is...there's no telling what all he was up to.
Even more outrageous than Price's litany of public office abuses, was the reaction of the citizens of St. Tammany when the allegations first began to surface. There was a swell of support for Price which continued in spite of the mounting transgressions...I think there is probably still a strong residue of loyalty even now that he pleaded guilty.
The scandal provided an interesting snapshot into the psyche of the Tamminites who have always been quick to throw stones across the pond and yell at those of us who live in this "cesspool of corruption" called New Orleans.
In light of the Price debacle, I would suggest the North Shore peeps take a look at their own reflection in the surface of Pontchartrain before they stand on the shore and piss on Orleanians.
At #6, with arms extended....enter Bill "Sidewinder" Hubbard.
The sidewinder moves in an outstretched manner. While its movement seems cumbersome, it's actually a very fast snake. So was Bill Hubbard.
Even though St. John the Baptist parish isn't the exact economic center of Southeast Louisiana, Hubbard played fast and hard in his domain and with his cohorts in other parishes. While Bill pleaded guilty to bribery charges in September, the rumor is he may have lots to talk about in the current investigation taking place in Jefferson Parish.
The squeeze begins at #5 with Tim "Python" Whitmer.
The python, being a constrictor, is known for squeezing its prey before spreading its mouth to extraordinary proportions and digesting as much as it possibly can. In fact, sometimes the python swallows so much it can rip itself apart...seems to be the case with former Jefferson Parish CAO, Tim Whitmer.
After it was recently discovered that his private insurance agency, Lagniappe Industries (nice), received a very lucrative contract with the West Jefferson Medical Center, the fed actually got off the stump with Jeff Parish and started investigating.
It was soon discovered that not only was Whitmer making a killing off the West Jeff MC deal, Lagniappe also handles the voluntary disability insurance plans for Kenner employees....and...and....his CAO position provides him with a 190k a year salary....and wait for it.....after he retires he gets a 171k annual pension for life! Jesus...this guy is making Goldman Sachs execs. look good.
How much can one snake digest?
The word is, this investigation is going to get much larger and perhaps lead directly to.....our next slithering constrictor.....
#4....dare I say it....Jefferson Parish President, Aaron "Anaconda" Broussard.
Ok, so just like Nagin, Broussard hasn't been charged with anything or, as yet, mentioned as a target of a federal investigation. So I will tread lightly here.
But just the other day we found out that the Anaconda squeezed thousands of dollars in Xmas gifts out of his underling elves. One of those elves sent an interseting email to Broussard's assistant which stated, "I apologize today at lunch by trying to speak to you about Aaron's Christmas Gift. For some reasons I did not get an e-mail or letter...I will be on the East Bank tomorrow morning and will drop off my donation to you at the Yenni Building."
Donation? Did he say donation? hmmmmm...in 2010, I think Broussard may just take the top spot in this countdown.
Surfacing at #3, comes former Sewerage & Water Board member, Benjamin "Sea Snake" Edwards.
Spending almost all of its time submerged, the sea snake is uniquely adapted for survival. While it boasts the most lethal venom of any snake on the planet, it has a docile temperament and tends to keep to itself...thereby ensuring a very long life.
Ben Edwards held his seat on the S & WB for over two decades and was the prolific comesee for anyone wanting to grab a contract with the entity. Way back in 2001, the Gambit sounded the warning bell that Edwards was bad news...he just slithered away and survived for another 8 years carrying on business as usual.
But even spending $270,000 dollars on Ray Nagin's 2006 mayoral bid couldn't keep him from eventually getting nailed. Edwards was indicted this month on 33 counts including wire fraud, money laundering, extortion, tax evasion and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and extortion.
This snake had legs, but the Rev. eventually came face to face with his demons.
At #2 comes a serpent with an even longer reach than Ben E....none other than Bill "Mamba" Jefferson.
The mamba is one of the deadliest snakes in the world and stylish to boot. It can raise itself up to enormous heights, mesmerize it's prey, then strike before you know what hit you.
Former Congressman Bill Jefferson was one of the greatest success stories of the state of Louisiana. He pulled himself up from a life of poverty and oppression to serve as the U.S. Representative in the second district of the Gret Stet for 19 years. Of course there's no telling how much cash Dollar Bill skimmed along the way, but he was finally convicted this year of bribery charges and sentenced to 13 years in the pokie.
No need for me to do a character profile of Bill, but Clancy has a pretty good requiem here. As prolific and tragic a character as Bill is, I don't think he compares to the number one spot in the 09 Sneaky Snake Countdown....his brother...
#1....Mose "King Cobra" Jefferson.
Why Mose, you ask? Because for every scam Bill had running, Mose had two. Mose practically wrote the book on non-profit scams and his trial and conviction didn't even touch the surface of his rackets through the years.
I think the Jefferson brother's story is the next great American novel....a new "All the Kings' Men" if you will. I don't know who's gonna write it, but I would suggest they resist the temptation to focus on Bill and instead focus on Mose.
There you go, the top 13 Sneaky Snakes of 2009.
Oh wait....I have one honorable mention.
The Ourobus award for 2009 goes to former New Orleans City Councilperson, Renee Gill-Pratt, who was indicted this year under Rico.
Renee gets the Ourobus award because she really didn't know when to shut up. Hence the snake eating it's own tail.
When Gordon Russell asked her about how she obtained a Dodge Durango which was a Post-K donation to the city by DiamlerChrysler, she replied, "But sometimes God puts things in places for you. It just happened. It wasn't something that was planned intentionally."
The truth was, as a city councilperson, she gave two of the vehicles to a non-profit she and Mose were running called Care Unlimited. The non-profit then gave it back to her. Nice.
Apparently she thought she was God...or maybe she thought Mose was God.
All right. That's it. I'm done....really...I'm done.