Slidell businessman admits he participated in kickback scheme as contractor in Afghanistan

Slidell businessman admits he participated in kickback scheme as contractor in Afghanistan

Elton McCabe Returns from South Sudan
Elton Mark McCabe, top center, the Slidell businessman who has been in prison in South Sudan, talks to the media after landing at Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner, La., Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. (Photo by Matthew Hinton, / The Times-Picayune) ( | The Times-Picayune file)

Heather Nolan, | The Times-Picayune By Heather Nolan, | The Times-Picayune
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on May 02, 2013 at 12:28 PM, updated May 02, 2013 at 12:34 PM

A Slidell businessman who previously denied his participation in an alleged conspiracy to commit wire fraud against the United States pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court and agreed to forfeit $60,000 he derived from the scheme. Elton “Mark” McCabe, 53, faces up to five years in prison at his August 22 sentencing hearing.

McCabe, who was vice president of a Louisiana-based company that provided construction service to the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, was accused of awarding a project to a subcontractor, and then accepting a $60,000 loan with the promise he would give the subcontractor more work later. The contract was for work at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan in 2009.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Butler said in court Thursday that no agreement was in place that detailed how McCabe would pay back that loan.

The subcontractor gave McCabe $7,000 in cash and wired $53,000 to McCabe’s wife’s bank account in Slidell, court records show.

Butler said the government would have been able to prove those facts had McCabe’s case gone to trial. McCabe said in court that the statements made by the U.S. Attorney’s Office were correct.

As part of a plea agreement, Butler said the federal government would not seek any other federal charges against McCabe. Based on the offense level of McCabe’s crime, Butler said McCabe could spend between 10 and 16 months in prison.

U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown said she is not bound by those guidelines and will not necessarily adhere to that time just because it was mentioned in the plea agreement.

Defense attorney Valerie Jusselin said the government had not made any other plea offer to McCabe.

Last fall, McCabe was detained in South Sudan for more than a month on a kidnapping charge, but was released after a judge dismissed the charge for lack of evidence. His wife, with the help of U.S. Sen. David Vitter, helped publicly lobby for McCabe’s release.

Federal agents arrested McCabe three days after he returned to Slidell on a warrant related to a criminal complaint in connection with his work in Afghanistan years earlier.

Brown released McCabe on bond until his sentencing hearing.

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