Zurik: Former FBI agent tosses loan, dinner, tickets to Hingle - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Lee Zurik Investigation: Former FBI agent tosses loan, beachside dinner, LSU tickets to Hingle

All can be eye-catching alone -- but combine a former FBI agent, millions of dollars of contracts, an LSU football trip and an expensive beachside dinner, and it all adds up to connections that one corruption watchdog calls troubling.

"There's obviously some smoke," says Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

A Mobile, Alabama-based disaster recovery company, the DRC Group, has made tens of millions of your dollars.

Since Hurricane Katrina, DRC has secured lucrative contracts all over the state: $8 million with the Orleans Parish Sheriff; $1.5 million at the Port of New Orleans; $7 million with the City of New Orleans. DRC also worked with the State of Louisiana, Jefferson Parish, St. Tammany Parish. And, in Plaquemines alone, records show DRC has been paid almost $34 million from the parish government since 2008.

And some dealings in Plaquemines Parish could have DRC Managing Director Robert Isakson in trouble.

It all started in November of 2009. LSU played Alabama in football in Tuscaloosa. Two sources in Plaquemines Parish confirm Isakson paid for former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle and his driver, Major Brandon Mouriz, to attend.

Fast forward to the next year, two months after the oil spill: state records show Hingle's driver, Brandon Mouriz, formed an equipment rental company, BCA Offshore. It just so happens, Hingle owned 50 percent of that company, but didn't disclose his ownership with the Secretary of State -- his wife did, though, in an ethics filing she submitted last year.

And now to one critical piece of this story. To start BCA Offshore, Mouriz and Hingle received a $100 thousand loan from DRC and its owner, Robert Isakson. Mouriz's attorney says the loan has been paid back with interest.

"And what motivated a vendor doing business in the parish to provide that start-up money, if your information is correct, to the sheriff and his driver?" wonders Goyeneche.

And right after receiving the loan, DRC hired Hingle and Mouriz's company, BCA Offshore, for post-oil spill work. With BP money, DRC paid Hingle and Mouriz about half a million dollars.

"The sheriff and his driver, who was Major Mouriz, found time to start up a company," notes Goyeneche. "You have to wonder what their expertise was in rental of oil field or offshore equipment. What motivated them to create this new company during a catastrophic time in the history of the parish?"

DRC also paid almost half a million dollars to Delta Security, another company connected to Mouriz. In another instance, Hingle's marina made $250,000 from DRC.

Tickets, a loan, contracts were not the only perks of the relationship between Hingle and Isakson. In August 2010, Plaquemines Parish sources say Isakson and DRC hosted a nearly-$10,000 dinner for Hingle at Seagar's restaurant in Destin, Florida, when Hingle became president of the state's sheriff association.

"Substantial sums of money that were spent, it would appear to curry favor with the sheriff," says Goyeneche.

From 2003 through the oil spill, DRC had no contracts with Hingle's office. But after that 2009 LSU football trip, the loan, the BP-related work for Hingle and his driver and the pricey beach dinner, the money began to flow from Hingle's office to Isakson's company.

In January of last year, Hingle gave DRC a $1.2 million contract to build a temporary 22-bed jail. Months later, DRC received a $1.9 million dollar contract to build a temporary correctional training facility.

"We are not dealing with a very sophisticated issue," Goyeneche says. "It's right and wrong."
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