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|Federal grand jury indicts Monroe councilmen|
Monroe City Councilmen Robert "Red" Stevens and Arthur Gilmore were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of racketeering and extortion for allegedly taking bribes from businesses and people who conduct business with the city.
U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley announced Thursday that Stevens, 58, and Gilmore, 52, were named in a two-count indictment for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the Hobbs Act.
Both defendants are scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Monroe on July 15 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Hayes.
"The indictment is an allegation by the United States and both men are presumed innocent until proven guilty, but I want to make it clear that the acts alleged by the indictment show a pattern of bribery and corruption by Stevens and Gilmore in violations of duties to the citizens of Monroe," said Finley, who held a news conference Thursday in Monroe to announce the indictments. The news conference was held at Washington Plaza office building, which houses the FBI's local office.
Finley declined to name the businesses and individuals who supplied Stevens and Gilmore with money. She said that information would surface during the defendants' trial.
The government's indictment referred to a "cooperating witness" who allegedly supplied Gilmore and Stevens with money in exchange for their help with issues or concerns the witness had before the city. The indictment did not identify the "cooperating witness."
The indictment is the result of a two-year investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Louisiana State Police. It alleges that Stevens and Gilmore, who were both elected to the city council in 1996, used their offices and positions as elected councilmen to "enrich themselves by accepting cash and other things of value from individuals and organizations having business before the council," Finley said.
In exchange, Stevens and Gilmore promised to take actions favorably to these people and organizations, the indictment said.
The indictment said those activities took place from 2006 to 2009.
The RICO count alleges nine specific instances where Stevens and Gilmore were charged with having violated the Louisiana public bribery law by accepting money and other things of value from a local businessman. According to Finley, the businessman, or "cooperating witness," is cooperating with the investigation.
In all, according to the indictment Stevens accepted bribes of $6,300 along with other "valuable consideration" while Gilmore accepted bribes of $1,437, along with other "valuable consideration," including a reduced purchase price for land.
If convicted, both men face a maximum sentence on the RICO count of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or both.
The Hobbs Act is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or both.