Stacey Jackson, former executive director of the New Orleans Affordable Homeownership agency, has been sentenced to five years in prison for her role in a massive kickback scheme stretching back at least to 2005.
Jackson abused her position as director of NOAH, a nonprofit that received annual grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to award federal funds to her friends for work they often didn’t even do. They in turn would pay her kickbacks from the federal money she’d awarded them. (RELATED: Investigation Reveals Massive Fraud In Texas Public Housing Program)
“For example,” a DOJ press release explained, “in or near October 2005, Jackson wrote a check from NOAH to Parish Dubuclet, a company operated by her friend, [Trellis] Smith, for approximately $15,260, which was deposited into a bank account belonging to Smith and Parish Dubuclet. On or about October 8, 2005, Parish Dubuclet wrote a check in the amount of $10,460 to Jackson’s father, which was deposited into a bank account that Jackson controlled jointly with her father. Several days later, Jackson used this money to write a check to a tree removal service to pay for the removal of a tree from her mother’s yard.”
She also used tens of thousands of dollars in public funds to renovate properties she owned. All told she has been ordered to pay $424,000 in restitution to HUD and an additional $50,000 fine. (RELATED: HUD Official Pleads Guilty To Stealing $843,000 In Taxpayer Funds)
According to the indictment, NOAH’s intended purpose was to “address blight in the New Orleans metropolitan area.” While it existed prior to Hurricane Katrina, the storm “further exacerbated the blight problem in New Orleans and created even more of an urgency to repair and remediate blighted homes.” Thus, in 2006, the city of New Orleans decided to expand its cooperation with NOAH, allowing it to take on significantly larger, more involved projects. (RELATED: Audit Exposes Millions In Unaccounted For FEMA Spending)
“Stacey Jackson’s criminal conduct was particularly despicable, as it prevented our most disadvantaged residents from receiving much-needed assistance as they struggled to rebuild their lives following Hurricane Katrina,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite. “Of course, our entire region suffers as well, as her corruption perpetuates entrenched stereotypes about our public officials and further erodes public trust in our government. The court appropriately imposed the statutory maximum sentence of 5 years in prison, along with full restitution to her victims and a significant fine.”
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was sentenced to ten years in prison this past summer for fraud, bribery, and money laundering that took place both before and after Hurricane Katrina. (RELATED: Nagin Says ‘I’ve Been Targeted, Smeared, And Tarnished’)
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the lead prosecutor in the case, Fred Harper, said that on top of everything else, Jackson spent a whopping $17,000 in NOAH money on her 40th birthday party.
At last week’s sentencing hearing, Jackson’s lawyer tried to plead for a lighter sentence because she is the mother of two young children. Harper was less than convinced.
“She is an educated, sophisticated woman,” he said. “She’s married to a successful man. Their income is hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet she steals. It’s pure, unadulterated greed. It wasn’t because the family was in trouble. It wasn’t a gambling habit somewhere. It wasn’t a drug addiction. It wasn’t because the mortgage wasn’t going to get paid. It was just stealing. Greed.”
Jackson is scheduled to begin her sentence on Jan. 12, 2015.