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Businessman linked to Nagin to plead guilty

A Louisiana businessman linked to a corruption probe of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is expected to plead guilty Wednesday to conspiring to bribe a former city official.

The ex-official served as an "agent" of the city between 2002 to 2010 — years that coincide with Nagin's two terms in office — and is identified as "Public Official A" in court documents. Randy Smith, a lawyer for the businessman, Frank Fradella, said it was pretty obvious who the official is.

"If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's probably a duck," Smith said. "I don't have the right to name the duck. Only the government can name it."

An attorney for Nagin, who hasn't been charged with wrongdoing, didn't immediately respond to telephone calls seeking comment. U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said he couldn't comment.

Smith said Fradella, who was CEO of a disaster reconstruction firm, is cooperating with federal authorities.

Federal authorities are investigating how a company founded by Nagin and his two sons obtained a contract to install granite countertops for local Home Depot stores after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, people with direct knowledge of the probe told The Associated Press in February.

Aaron Bennett, a businessman who pleaded guilty last year in a separate bribery case, told The Times-Picayune he introduced Nagin to Fradella specifically to help the mayor get the Home Depot work. Fradella's company received millions of dollars in city contracts for repair work at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and in the French Quarter after Katrina, the newspaper reported.

Fradella conspired to provide payoffs to the unidentified public official to reward him for his assistance in a series of unspecified "transactions," worth at least $5,000, involving the city, court documents said.

The former official used his office to benefit Fradella's business interests in exchange for the payoffs, the court documents said.

Fradella was CEO of Home Solutions of America Inc., a publicly traded company.

Fradella was freed on $100,000 bond Tuesday after making his initial court appearance in New Orleans for a securities fraud case that originated in Texas. Elements of the Texas case are contained in the new charges against him in New Orleans.

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