Federal allegations raised against Houma businessman

Federal prosecutors alleged Thursday that a Houma towing company owner made false statements in order to hide efforts to funnel thousands of dollars into the political campaigns of Louisiana’s U.S. senators.

Arlen Cenac Jr., who owns Cenac Towing, was named in an one-count federal bill of information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans.

The bill of information claims Cenac donated monies on Feb. 16, 2008, and on May 24, 2008.

He purchased cashier’s checks, in the names of individuals other than himself, using his personal and corporate funds, according to the federal bill of information.

His alleged actions violated the Federal Election Act of 1971, which limits the amount of money that can be contributed to a candidate for federal office and prohibits a donor from contributing in the name of another person.

Federal law limits a person to donating a total of $4,600 to a candidate for federal office in primary and general elections, according to federal law.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said information, including the name of Cenac’s attorney, will not be entered into the public record until Friday.

The federal bill of information did not name the federal candidates involved and noted specifically that they did nothing wrong.

But Cenac in August agreed to a $170,000 settlement with the Federal Election Commission for donating $15,000 to Sen. David Vitter’s campaign in the name of others in February 2008 and $25,300 to the campaign of Sen. Mary Landrieu in the name of others in May 2008.

The checks attracted suspicion because they were received as “sequentially numbered checks from the same bank,” according to the Federal Election Commission.

Neither Landrieu nor Vitter commented on the bill of information filed Thursday.

But Vitter’s press office stated in an email Thursday that the senator already has donated the $15,000 to charity — $7,500 to Angels Place and $7,500 to the Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans.

The Landrieu campaign’s attorney, Marc Elias, of Washington, D.C., said Thursday the money was turned over to the U.S. Treasury as soon as it was noticed that the contributions were problematic.

“The Landrieu campaign did everything right,” he said.