Former St. Gabriel Mayor George L. Grace Sr. was sentenced Monday to 22 years in federal prison for his March 3 conviction on seven charges that included racketeering, bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud.
“It is believed to be the longest public corruption prison sentence in the history of Louisiana,” U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said in a statement after the hearing. “This historic sentence should send a loud and clear message that those engaged in public corruption will face severe punishment.”
Visiting U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr., of Shreveport, described Grace, 68, as the leader of a group of municipal officials in Port Allen, White Castle and New Roads. Those officials and Grace used their public offices for personal gain, the judge said during the hearing.
During a trial of more than six weeks, the 17-year mayor was portrayed by prosecutors and government witnesses as a public official who demanded bribes and kickbacks from people who sought his help to establish businesses in St. Gabriel.
Grace was prosecuted as a result of an FBI sting known as Operation Blighted Officials. The sting featured a fantasy company, Cifer 5000, that was promoted as a garbage-can cleaning service seeking municipal contracts in Louisiana.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey R. Amundson said Grace’s investigation reflected “a lifetime of corruption, not just a couple of years or a couple of transactions.”
Amundson added that many St. Gabriel residents either work for the municipality or have relatives who are municipal employees.
Others convicted in Operation Blighted Officials include former New Roads Mayor T.A. “Tommy” Nelson Jr., serving an 11-year prison term; former White Castle Mayor Maurice Brown, serving 10 years; and former Port Allen Mayor Derek Lewis, serving a 40-month prison term.
Former Port Allen Police Chief Frederick W. Smith was sent to prison for more than seven years. Former Port Allen Councilman Johnny Johnson was sent to a halfway house for six months and ordered to serve two years of probation.
Richard Chambers, former deputy commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Insurance, pleaded guilty last month to a charge that he used a telephone in aid of racketeering. Chambers is scheduled to be sentenced in November.