ZURIK: Kenner powerbroker under federal investigation

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 10:18 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 15, 2022 at 10:28 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON PARISH (WVUE) - Sources tell FOX 8 News the subject of one of our stories is now under federal investigation. The investigation is part of a wide-ranging public corruption probe into the City of Kenner.

Sources tell FOX 8 news FBI agents are investigating possible corruption in Kenner and have interviewed several witnesses about Nicky Nicolosi and his connection to Kenner contracts and Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn.

Nicolosi is a well-connected behind-the-scenes powerbroker in Kenner. In a deposition for a civil lawsuit over Kenner’s garbage contract, Nicky Nicolosi refused to answer questions about his connections to Kenner contractors and asserted his fifth amendment rights at least 120 times.

Zahn has said Nicolosi is a trusted advisor whom he’s known for years.

Prior FOX 8 investigations showed Nicolosi used to work for Kenner’s former garbage collector, Ramelli Waste. However, while on the Ramelli payroll, Nicolosi started working behind the scenes to move the contract from Ramelli to IV Waste.

When IV Waste started picking up garbage, FOX 8 uncovered a video showing Nicolosi with IV Waste owner Sidney Torres, even once instructing Torres as to which days garbage would be picked up in the city. But Torres has been adamant that he hasn’t paid Nicolosi any money.

At a March 2020 Kenner council meeting Torres told the public Nicolosi wasn’t on his payroll. “There’s been a lot of accusations made in the news about backroom deals and it’s very offensive to hear that. There is no backroom deals here. Nick does not work for me, and the accusation saying he works for me, that there was backroom deals, is just not true,” said Torres.

FOX 8 uncovered a document showing a business partner and good friend of Torres, David Carimi, started making payments to Nicolosi the same month IV Waste took over the Kenner garbage contract. Carimi pays Nicolosi $5,800 per month.

Carimi told FOX 8 Nicolosi works for him as a consultant.

Zurik: “What does he do for you as a consultant?”

Carimi: “He does, he helps us get work.”

Zurik: “Where?”

Carimi: “Municipal type work.”

Zurik: “Has he gotten you any work?”

Carimi: “We’ve submitted proposals.”

Zurik: “So he hasn’t gotten you any work?”

Carimi: “None that have been accepted.”

Despite Nicolosi not getting Carimi any work, Carimi has paid Nicolosi more than $100,000 in 21 months. Carimi insisted to FOX 8 that his payments to Nicolosi have nothing to do with the IV Waste contract in Kenner.

Nicolosi also works for a Kenner contractor named Solutient. Contracts show Solutient bills Kenner $200/hour for Nicolosi’s work. Invoices show he’s done consulting involving Kenner’s wastewater operations and has billed at that rate.

In fact, Solutient has 12 contracts with the Zahn administration. Any contract of $100,000 or more requires council approval. But all Solutient contracts are under $100,000, so Zahn hasn’t needed to receive council approval for any of the work.

Sources also tell FOX 8 that Nicolosi works for another Kenner vendor, Digital Engineering. In the past couple of years, Digital Engineering has made about $600,000 per year from Kenner contracts.

During the deposition, Nicolosi declined to answer questions about any possible ties to IV waste, citing his fifth amendment right.

But sources tell FOX 8 that he’s now part of a wide-ranging federal investigation involving FBI agents’ questions about inside dealings in Kenner.

Nicolosi’s attorney told FOX 8 he had no comment when asked about our investigation.

Zahn has also refused to comment, citing the ongoing lawsuit.

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