Ackel Construction Co. owner George Ackel is seeking more than $4 million in damages over alleged civil rights violations in a suit against East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid J. Gantreaux.

Ackel claims he was falsely arrested on felony theft charges that were politically motivated, according to a suit filed April 13 in New Orleans federal court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Ackel was responsible for buying supplies for an ongoing project for the Federal Emergency Management Administration his company was involved in and would routinely order materials from Parish Home Center on his personal American Express Card. In such cases, he would ask that someone from his company be present when the supplies where delivered.

Ackel claims that contrary to his request, the items were delivered to a job site without anyone from his company there to oversee their safekeeping and the items disappeared, the suit states. Since the materials were ordered on his credit card, Ackel was able to dispute the bill through American Express and request that Parish Home Center verify that the items were sent.

According to the complaint, the credit card company contacted Parish Home Center but the company failed to respond to the dispute. As a result American Express refused to pay the bill and Parish Home Center responded by filing charges to arrest Ackel for felony theft. Shortly after being arrested and making bond, the charges against Ackel were dropped.

"[D]efendant acted out of political patronage or other malfeasant motive to seek plaintiff's arrest in order to appease the claims of Parish Home Center and/or its operators," the suit states.

Ackel is also asking for an award of punitive damages for Gantreaux's "willful and malicious conduct" and to "prevent a repetition of such conduct in the future."

Attorney Matthew L. Pepper form The Woodlands, Texas, is representing Ackel.

U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk is assigned to the case.

Case No 2:10cv01096

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