Scheme included falsifying public bidding
LAFAYETTE — The former director of the public housing authorities in Lafayette and Opelousas pleaded guilty Friday to federal bribery and wire fraud charges in an investigation of bid-rigging and questionable donations to a youth sports team.
Federal prosecutors said Walter O. Guillory, 51, was involved in a scheme that steered housing authority construction work to certain companies and that he also asked vendors who did business with the housing authorities to make annual donations to a baseball team he sponsored.
Total donations were in excess of $100,000 from 2006 to 2010, and Guillory also used some of the money for personal expenses, according to court filings from prosecutors.
Federal prosecutor Kelly Uebinger said the $100,000 figure is a rough estimate and that the actual amount Guillory pocketed compared with what went to the team is unknown.
“A lot of the money was in cash, so it’s impossible to trace,” she told U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Foote.
Federal prosecutors said the bid-rigging scheme involved falsifying paperwork to make it appear that contractors who were awarded bids by the Opelousas Housing Authority had won the projects through the public bidding process that was legally required for government contracts.
A former employee of the Opelousas Housing Authority, Garnette L. Thomas, pleaded guilty last year to a federal wire fraud charge and admitted using letterheads from contractors who had not actually bid on the projects to create phony bids to give the appearance of a legitimate competitive bid process.
Guillory said Friday he was not directly involved in the bid-rigging, but he did admit signing off on questionable contracts.
“I had an idea or inclination that the bid laws were not being followed,” he told the judge.
None of the companies involved is listed in the court documents, with the exception of one construction contractor identified only by the initials “K.A.”
Guillory served as the director of the Lafayette Housing Authority from 1998 through 2010, stepping down after a critical state audit found questionable expenses and widespread problems with record-keeping at the agency.
He had also served in a dual role as director of the Opelousas Housing Authority from 2005 to 2009.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the primary funding source for public housing projects, disbanded the Lafayette Housing Authority board in 2011 and took over management of the local agency, citing “numerous financial deficiencies over the past three years and a leadership vacuum.”
The federal agency still oversees the local housing authority.
Foote allowed Guillory to remain free pending sentencing, which is set for June 11.
He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the bribery charges and up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge.
He will likely face much less time under the guidelines used for federal sentencing, because he has no criminal record, chose to plead guilty rather than fight the charges at trial and is cooperating in an ongoing investigation of the housing authorities.