Lee Zurik Investigation: Hingle to jail, taxpayers pay him $400k

Published: Sep. 17, 2013 at 12:46 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2013 at 2:26 AM CDT
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Former Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Jiff Hingle surrendered himself Monday, reporting to a federal prison in South Carolina where he'll serve most of his nearly four-year sentence.

And even while he's behind bars, the public will still be paying Hingle.

Jiff Hingle's been receiving a public paycheck since he pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges and retired as sheriff of Plaquemines Parish. Hingle is due a monthly retirement benefit because of his nearly 20 years of service as sheriff.

When Hingle apologized to taxpayers at his July sentencing hearing,he had already collected nearly two years of retirement benefits.

In a statement following his decision last year not to seek re-election, Hingle said, "I want the people of Plaquemines Parish to know that it is with a heavy heart that I have reached this decision. Simply put, I love being Sheriff."

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

When we asked Hingle why he committed such crimes in public office, he told us, "I thought about that a lot. I think after the storm, as hard as the storm was, things got way too easy for me. I would raise more in one night campaign-wise than I would raise in a four-year period prior to that. I became feeling entitled, which was a huge mistake. I just wasn't thinking right."

In 2012, Louisiana voters passed a law that gives state judges the authority to deny retirement benefits to public officials who are convicted felons. But Hingle's guilty plea came before that bill was passed, and the bill doesn't give that authority to a federal judge – remember, Hingle pleaded guilty in federal court.

So, as Hingle spends the next four years behind bars, he'll collect more than $400,000 of public money.

According to the state Sheriff's Pension and Relief Fund, Hingle will receive $104,000 in retirement benefits a year, for the rest of his life.