Charges levied against Army Corps of Engineers contract employee, subcontractor
Durwanda Heinrich and Kern Wilson were indicted by a federal grand jury in New Orleans, and each was charged with one count of conspiring to commit bribery. Additionally, Heinrich was charged with two counts of offering a bribe to a public official and Wilson was charged with one count of demanding and agreeing to accept a bribe as a public official, according to the Department of Justice.
“The critically important task of rebuilding the levee system in the New Orleans area must not be vulnerable to corruption,” said Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force will prosecute those who choose illegal financial gain for themselves at the expense of the community. The Department of Justice will continue to protect the money that goes into rebuilding New Orleans from fraud and corruption.”
The indictment charges that the conspiracy took place from August to October 2006 during reconstruction of the Lake Cataouatche Levee. The conduct centers on an attempt by Heinrich, Wilson, and Raul Miranda—a previously charged former contract employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—to steer a dirt, sand and gravel subcontract on the levee project to Heinrich in return for Heinrich using part of the proceeds from the subcontract to pay bribes to Wilson and Miranda for their assistance, according to the Justice Department.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of not more than three times the amount of the bribe. The bribery charges each carry a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of not more than three times the amount of the bribe. If convicted, Heinrich and Wilson also could be disqualified from holding any position in the U.S. government.
In August 2007, Miranda, of Houston, pleaded guilty to agreeing to accept a bribe for the Lake Cataouatche Levee project.
The Lake Cataouatche Levee project will improve an 8-mile section of the levee system. This section currently represents the levee’s lowest stretch, which protects the citizens of Jefferson and St. Charles parishes.
“This isn’t just about the rebuilding of a levee, but the rebuilding of fellow American lives and ensuring their livelihood and safety,” said Brigadier General Rodney Johnson, who heads the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command. “The people of the Gulf Coast Region deserve better, and as part of the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, I can assure the victims of Katrina that we are doing everything in our power to ensure they are not victimized again by disaster-related federal crimes.”
In September 2005, the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force was created to deter, investigate and prosecute disaster-related federal crimes. To date, the Hurricane Katrina Task Force has indicted 881 individuals in 43 judicial districts.