New Orleans Levee Contractor to Plead Guilty in Bribery Case

Wed September 12, 2007 - Southeast Edition

NEW ORLEANS (AP) A former Army Corps of Engineers contractor accused of giving confidential information to a company seeking work on a levee reconstruction project has agreed to plead guilty to bribery, federal prosecutors said Aug. 23.

In August 2006, Raul Jorge Miranda was on a panel handling bids to reconstruct a pivotal levee on Lake Cataouatche, which is southwest of New Orleans and protects an area of suburbs and small towns on the western side of the Mississippi River, officials said.

Prosecutors allege Miranda provided confidential information to an unidentified sand and gravel subcontractor seeking a piece of the $16 million levee project. In exchange, Miranda sought kickbacks of 25 cents per cubic yard of sand and gravel the company sold. Prosecutors declined to say whether Miranda actually received any bribe money.

Vic Harris, a Corps spokesman in New Orleans, said the Corps alerted the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division to the bribery scheme.

“In this case,” Harris said, “the Army Corps of Engineers did in fact do the right thing. We suspected some activity that was not right and we immediately turned it over to the proper authorities to investigate.”

Attempts to reach Miranda were unsuccessful and it could not be determined who is representing him.

Miranda was a construction manager for Integrated Logistical Support Inc., also known as Ilsi Engineering, a New Orleans civil engineering firm hired to help the Corps manage some of its projects.

Leslie Tabony, Ilsi’s senior vice president of operations, said she was unaware of an investigation into Miranda’s work in New Orleans.

“He was with us for a few months and left our employment abruptly with no notice,” Tabony said. “We’re shocked.”

After he left, she said, the Corps actually contacted Ilsi to look for him because they thought he was doing such a good job.

Prosecutors characterized their case against Miranda as another example of a reprehensible attempt to profit at a time of tragedy.

“The critically important task of rebuilding the levee system in the New Orleans area must not be vulnerable to corrupt contractors,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Alice S. Fisher. “The Department of Justice will continue to protect the money that goes into rebuilding New Orleans from fraud and corruption.”

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