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Former La. Lawmaker Charged In Racketeering Case

RentalsTrials and ArbitrationOffice and Retail SpacesJustice SystemOrganized Crime

A former Louisiana state representative was charged Friday with taking part in a scheme to pocket hundreds ofthousands of dollars in grant money earmarked for charitable and educational programs.The 34-count indictment handed up by a federal grand jury against former state Rep. Renee Gill Pratt also brings new chargesagainst three relatives of former congressman William Jefferson.Gill Pratt's boyfriend, Mose Jefferson, pleaded not guilty last year to charges related to Friday's indictment. Mose Jefferson's sister, New Orleans tax assessor Betty Jefferson, and his niece,Angela Coleman, also are charged in the case and have pleaded not guilty. The new indictment charges the four suspects with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, in which they allegedly funneled federaland state grant funds through companies under their control to enrich themselves financially and politically.The indictment said the scheme also included Gill Pratt's personal use of vehicles that DaimlerChrysler had donated to help the city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.Gill Pratt didn't immediately return a call for comment Friday. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said she didn't know if Gill Pratt has hired an attorney. Lawyers for Mose and Betty Jefferson, who are siblings of William Jefferson, and Coleman didn't immediately return calls for comment following the announcement of the new indictment.Gill Pratt, a Democrat, represented New Orleans in the House from 1991 to 2002, then served as a New Orleans city councilwoman from 2002 to 2006 before losing a re-election bid.The indictment claims Gill Pratt used her House position to help secure funding for nonprofits that were purportedly helping pregnant teens and "at-risk" youths, cleaning up New Orleans neighborhoods and engaged in other charitable enterprises. Insead,the indictment said the suspects allegedly pocketed the money.When Gill Pratt was a City Council member, she allegedly arranged for the city to pay for office space in a building owned by Mose Jefferson, the indictment said. The city's rental payments were deposited in a bank account for one of Mose Jefferson'scompanies, which paid Gill Pratt $5,000, according to the indictment. Jefferson also used rental payments to pay for GillPratt's dues and throws for a Mardi Gras krewe, the indictment claims.After leaving office, Gill Pratt was hired as executive director of Care Unlimited, a nonprofit controlled by Betty Jefferson that was one of the recipients of misappropriated grant money, according to the indictment.Another member of the Jefferson family, Brenda Jefferson,pleaded guilty last year to helping conceal the alleged scheme and agreed to cooperate with investigators. William Jefferson, who was voted out of office last year, isn't charged in this case, but he is awaiting a trial in Virginia nextmonth in a separate corruption case. The charges in the new indictment against Gill Pratt and theother three suspects includes conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, fraud, identitytheft, money laundering and tax evasion.

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