Former Plaquemines Parish sheriff sentenced in bribery case

Jiff Hingle with attorney Frank DeSalvo
Jiff Hingle with attorney Frank DeSalvo

A federal judge sentenced former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle Wednesday to three years, 10 months in prison.

Hingle had already pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges for accepting kickbacks and illegally spending campaign money.

When Hingle entered the federal courthouse, he had hope U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance would be lenient. But the judge called Hingle's conduct "aberrant" and said what he did "is as bad as it gets."

Federal prosecutors wanted the former sheriff to receive 31 months behind bars; the judge gave Hingle 46.

Judge Vance told Hingle, "The effect of having a sheriff on the take for taking bribes is far more corrosive than a lesser official taking kickbacks."

For nearly two years, Jiff Hingle wouldn't answer our questions.  But Wednesday, he apologized to the judge and the people he represented as sheriff in Plaquemines Parish.

Hingle pleaded guilty to bribery and mail fraud charges. He admitted to taking bribes from businessman Aaron Bennett and admitted to illegally spending about $150,000 of his campaign money.

When we asked Hingle why he did it, he told us, "I thought about that a lot. I think after the storm, ashard as the storm was, things got way too easy for me. I would raise more in onenight campaign-wise than I would raise in a four-year period prior to that. Ibecame feeling entitled, which was a huge mistake. I just wasn't thinkingright."

Our investigations dug deep into Hingle and his relationship with a former FBI agent, Robert Isakson, who now owns the disaster recovery company DRC. We showed how Hingle helped form a business following the BP oil spill. Isakson hired that company to do BP-related work., and near the same time Hingle hired Isakson's company through the Sheriff's Office.

More than one year ago, Hingle's attorney, Frank DeSalvo, told us the relationship between his client and Isakson was "up and above board." But Wednesday, he wasn't as strong to come to Isakson's defense, refusing to say anything about Isakson.

Sources in Plaquemines parish say that could be a sign Hingle has told the government information about Isakson. If true, Hingle will continue to cooperate while behind bars.

As he left the federal courthouse, he made sure to take responsibility for his actions, blaming himself for his upcoming prison sentence.

"I wasn't influenced by anyone," Hingle told us.  "This was my own doing and my own fault."

The judge ordered Hingle to report to prison by noon on Monday, September 16. He also must pay a $10,000 fine.