|Congressman’s Brother Is Said to Have Bribed School Official|
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By ADAM NOSSITER
Published: June 21, 2007
NEW ORLEANS, June 20 — The former president of the Orleans Parish School Board pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to taking $140,000 in bribes from a political operative thought to be the older brother of Representative William J. Jefferson, who has been indicted on bribery charges.
The operative is not named in court papers, and government lawyers have refused to identify the source of the bribes to the former schools president, Ellenese Brooks-Simms. But a person close to the investigation who asked not to be identified said it was Mose Jefferson, the congressman’s brother. Mr. Jefferson, also identified in local news reports as the one making the bribes, did not return phone calls.
Mose Jefferson has been one of the congressman’s chief strategists for more than two decades, a hardball-playing organizer of his campaigns, according to local consultants, and a discreet but powerful presence in one of New Orleans’ ruling political families.
Though not named in the unrelated bribery and racketeering indictment of the congressman, a person identified as “Family Member 2,” and fitting Mose Jefferson’s description, is a fixture in the indictment’s 96 pages. Repeatedly, the congressman pressed companies he is accused of assisting into giving “Family Member 2” a part of their proceeds, according to the indictment.
Those deals involved companies seeking business in Africa, Mr. Jefferson’s role in procuring it, and trips back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean. Wednesday’s guilty plea touched on more parochial matters: a bribe to ensure an educational software company received a lucrative contract from the Orleans Parish School Board.
The head of the company, John Lee, confirmed to The New Orleans Times-Picayune that he had hired Mose Jefferson as a consultant. The indictment said the unnamed briber, identified only as “Mr. A” by the government, had received more than $900,000 from the software company and had kicked back the $140,000 to Ms. Brooks-Sims. Mr. Lee did not return calls Wednesday.
Representative Jefferson has pleaded not guilty to his indictment; Mose Jefferson has not been charged in either case.
Wednesday’s plea added another thread to the tangled web of corruption — alleged or proved — involving governance in this city before Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. The involvement of Mose Jefferson would link two such strands: the well-established malfeasance in the school system, which has already resulted in 23 federal guilty pleas; and what federal prosecutors allege is a pattern of corruption extending to Representative Jefferson’s family, as outlined in the indictment of the congressman this month.
In particular, “Family Member 2” was the object of constant solicitude from Representative Jefferson. “Family Member 2” is identified in the congressman’s indictment as the registered agent and secretary-treasurer, respectively, of companies called B.E.P. Consulting Services LLC and Jefferson Interests Inc.; state records show Mose Jefferson occupying those positions.
In one typical dealing, a businessperson identified in the indictment as “DEF” sought the congressman’s help in establishing a sugar plant in Nigeria; the congressman said “Family Member 2 would have to be compensated” before any help was forthcoming. Eventually the congressman introduced DEF to a “high-ranking Nigerian government official,” according to the court papers, and “Family Member 2” duly received a check for $7,489.
“A lot of times, when you couldn’t get through to Bill, that was where you went to,” said Cheron Brylski, a New Orleans political consultant, referring to Mose Jefferson. “He was very protective of Bill, always concerned that he had the best team around him.”