A former state highway engineer, two supervisors from the prime contractor that widened Interstate 10 in Metairie and the owner of a pipe-cleaning outfit were arraigned on federal charges in an alleged scheme to skim almost $295,000 from the project budget.
Albert "Buddy" Andre Jr., 53, of Slidell; Jeff Bentley, 52, of Muscadine, Ala.; Jason Adrian Guy, 38, of Madisonville; and Harry Joseph Labiche, 69, of Metairie pleaded innocent Friday to charges of conspiracy to bribe a state official.
But all four plan to plead guilty Oct. 15, said attorneys Vinny Mosca, representing Labiche, and Michael Ellis, representing Guy.
"He expects to plead guilty on the 15th and acknowledge his criminal activity, and hopefully before he's sentenced, full restitution will be made," Mosca said. He said he expects the sentencing to be mild because Labiche has reached a plea deal with federal authorities.
"My client is cooperating fully with the government and wants to correct a wrongdoing and get on with his life," Ellis said of Guy.
Attorneys for Bentley and Andre couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Each defendant faces as long as five years in prison and $250,000 in fines, although maximum sentences are rare in federal court.
Labiche was hired by Boh Bros. Construction Co. to clean drains of construction debris during the $75 million project, which added extra lanes to I-10 between Causeway Boulevard and the 17th Street Canal.
In September 2008, Boh Bros. noticed discrepancies in several invoices submitted by Labiche. After an internal investigation, the company fired Guy and Andre, former supervisors, and called the U.S. attorney's office.
Federal investigators say Labiche requested $323,422.55 in payment for work that likely cost no more than $29,000. Guy is accused of signing off on the invoices even though he was part of Boh Bros.' paving department and had no direct authority over Labiche's contract.
A bill of information accused Labiche of kicking back $28,627 to Andre and $106,330 to Bentley, formerly the project's de facto managing engineer for the Department of Transportation and Development. Bentley allegedly paid Guy $9,000 and Andre $5,000 for their involvement, according to federal charges.
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Richard Rainey can be reached at [email protected] or 504.883.7052.