State Senator Wesley Bishop charged with making a false statement to federal agency

Wesley Bishop Charged

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - State Senator Wesley Bishop has been charged by federal authorities for making a false statement to a federal agency.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Bishop, a state senator and associate vice chancellor at Southern University at New Orleans, made a false statement to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Prosecutors allege Bishop claimed certain people were tenants at his rental property in New Orleans, when in fact they were not living at the property.

FOX 8 has been looking into Bishop’s use of a rental property in New Orleans East and examining hundreds of pages of documents associated with it.

In the Summer of 2012, Bishop received a $188,000 forgivable loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)'s Small Rental Property Program. The program incentivizes property owners by giving them this loan and in return, the property owners offer reduced rental rates for low-income residents. If the property is rented for five straight years, the loan is forgiven. In this case, if Bishop rented out the New Orleans East fourplex for five years, he would be able to keep the $188,000.

The Louisiana Office of Community Development oversees the federal grant. Bishop submitted lease agreements showing the government that low-income residents were living in his units.

In one lease document, Bishop signs off that Unit B had someone living there from February 2013 through January 2015. The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans said they have never had an account on file for that unit and the water meter was removed in March 2012, even though Bishop claims someone lived there.

Three of the four units never had a water meter, while Bishop claimed people were living in the units. A fourth had an open account for a few months, according to SWBNO. The agency said they removed that meter in the Summer of 2013. Bishop, according to housing documents, said he had people living in those units after that date.

State inspectors took photos of State Senator Bishop's rental property in New Orleans East and documented that it was vacant.
State inspectors took photos of State Senator Bishop's rental property in New Orleans East and documented that it was vacant. (Source: Office of Community Development)

When the state did a compliance inspection on his fourplex, they took pictures of the property with no signs of any residents. Inspectors wrote Bishop a letter stating all four units were vacant.

In the charging document, prosecutors said “during the time period at issue, the rental property was vacant and uninhabitable.”

An arraignment on the charge has been scheduled for December 2 in New Orleans. The case was investigated by the HUD Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

‘UNEXCUSED ABSENCE’ INVESTIGATION

Bishop has been the focus of several FOX 8 Lee Zurik investigations into his use of leave for his job at Southern University at New Orleans while getting paid by the state for his duties as a lawmaker. No action has been taken against Bishop in relation to those findings.

Our investigation found Bishop used 122 sick days at SUNO, while he worked in Baton Rouge, adding to nearly $40,000 of money he may have improperly received. Following the FOX 8 Investigation, Bishop cut taxpayers a $20,000 check to SUNO.

Bishop was first elected to the Louisiana State Senate in October 2015 and was elected in the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2011. He announced on Aug. 3 he will not seek re-election.

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