Ex-Liberty County Judge Reaches Plea Deal Over Ike

BEAUMONT, Texas (AP) - A former Southeast Texas county leader has reached a plea agreement over alleged misuse of Hurricane Ike government cleanup funds.

The plea deal with former Liberty County Judge Phil Fitzgerald awaits approval by a federal judge in Beaumont.

Fitzgerald last week appeared before a magistrate and admitted to making a false claim for federal funds. The charge carries a penalty of up to five years in federal prison.

An attorney for Fitzgerald and prosecutors declined comment on the plea agreement before U.S. District Judge Ron Clark. A magistrate's report to Clark was filed Monday.

A multi-count indictment returned in January said Fitzgerald received about $611,000 in kickbacks disguised as legitimate business transactions for cleanup following the September 2008 hurricane.

Fitzgerald failed in his 2010 re-election bid.