Scandal: New Orleans Shakedown (2004-2010)
Money: $500,000 / worth $600,000 today
He became the public face of a battered city after HurricaneKatrina hit New Orleans in 2005. But when the city recently marked the tenthanniversary of the storm, Ray Nagin was nowhere to be seen. That's because theformer mayor is serving a ten-year federal prison sentence for corruptionbefore, during, and after Katrina. What his scam lacks in dollars compared tosome of the other Great American frauds, it makes up for in audacity. At a timewhen his city needed help the most, Nagin used the disaster as a revenuesource. He installed an associate as the city's "chief technology officer,"gaining control over millions of dollars in no-bid city contracts for thingslike computer systems and crime cameras. And Nagin used his position as mayorto steer redevelopment business to a granite company he owned with his sons.Perhaps worst of all, he let his city down during its darkest hour.
A disaster can be a prime breeding ground for corruptpoliticians. Some disasters, like hurricanes, are natural. Others, like the$160 billion savings and loan crisis in the 1980s, are manmade. Takingadvantage of that disaster were five politicians, but they're almostuniversally referred to as one, and that's next on our list.