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County judge indicted on conspiracy and bribery charges

A Ouachita County judge was indicted on federal charges of conspiracy and bribery Thursday in relation to an attempt to defraud the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
LITTLE ROCK, AR – A Ouachita County judge was indicted on federal charges of conspiracy and bribery Thursday in relation to an attempt to defraud the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The indictment says James Michael Hesterly, a county judge in Ouachita County for the past 10 years, arranged to have a FEMA contract awarded to Harry Clemons, Jr. in exchange for contributions to his 2010 reelection campaign.

The FEMA contract was to assist Ouachita County with the cleanup of debris from two tornados that struck in October of 2009. The Department of Justice says Clemons, owner of Clemons Construction, arranged to have two other companies submit inflated bids for the job. Clemons then submitted a bid from him and another company that was lower than the inflated bids.

Hesterly accepted the bid, according to the DOJ, and applied for aid from FEMA to help pay for the contract, which paid Clemons nearly $70,000.

The DOJ asserts that the bidding for the job was not sealed, a requirement under federal regulations. Furthermore, the DOJ says the bid was only advertised for one day. State law requires it to be advertised for ten days.

Both Hesterly and Clemmons are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud an agency of the United States and two counts of bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds. They face a maximum of 25 years in prison if found guilty on all charges.
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