New Orleans -- After four years of investigating, federal prosecutors have charged five people with theft of public funds in the NOAH housing gutting scandal.
The agency, New Orleans Affordable Homeownership, was shut down in the summer of 2008 after a series of reports by Lee Zurik and Karen Gadbois of The Lens
. Reports revealed many of the homes NOAH had paid to gut or remediate got no attention at all.
“It seems like there was a plot to systematically steal from a federal agency,” says FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti.
As complaints grew, the feds began investigating several contractors working in the program. Those charged are Richard Hall, Trellis Smith, Shantrice Dial, Jamon Dial and Earl Myers.
According to the indictment, Richard Hall was the highest-paid contractor for NOAH and facing 12 counts of theft. The feds outlined a scheme from October of 2005 until July 2008, in which Hall was paid more than $360,000. In some cases, they say he was double paid for work that was never completed. In all, the indictment says Hall’s illegal haul of public money came to about $116,000.
The couple under indictment, Shantrice and Jamon Dial, also face theft charges along with charges of structuring financial transactions to avoid bank reporting. They allegedly collected more than $119,000 for work that was never done. Shantrice worked for NOAH as a special projects coordinator; Jamon was a sub-contractor.
The other contractors, Earl Myers and Trellis Smith, were charged through a one-count bill of information. Both, according to the documents, had close ties to NOAH’s executive director at the time, Stacey Jackson. Myers and Smith are accused of conspiring with Jackson to steal the non-profit’s money and paying her kickbacks.
Jackson’s name never appears in any court documents. They only refer to a ‘City Official A’ as the executive director.
FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti says it’s clear the federal investigation isn’t over. “It seems obvious that there’s going to be another shoe dropping. The lady who was the executive director sure seems to be a person of interest or a target of this investigation and it may go beyond her.”
Indictments were handed up on three people, while two others, Myers and Smith, were charged in a bill of information. A bill of information could mean that those two contractors are cooperating with the feds.