Nearly five years after federal authorities abruptly abandoned a massive corruption probe targeting local landfill owner Fred Heebe, a civil case with similar contours — this one brought by a competitor in the bare-knuckles trash-disposal business — was settled this week on the eve of what was expected to be a two-week trial in federal court. Given that the feds never brought charges, the trial over Waste Management’s civil racketeering claim against Heebe and his stepfather, Jim Ward, looked to be the closest thing to a public airing of the allegations the investigators were exploring before they gave up the chase. Now those issues may never be aired. The terms of the 11th-hour settlement, reached Thursday, are confidential, according to court records. While the federal case never produced an indictment of its main targets, several peripheral players were charged. The prosecution’s theory appeared to be that Heebe and Ward had for years illegally used a series of “shell” companies affiliated with River Birch to make scads of donations to local politicians, skirting Louisiana campaign laws and buying themselves favorable treatment. Waste Management built on that implicit premise, saying in its 2011 suit that bundles of "straw" contributions to then-Mayor Ray Nagin and then-Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, in particular, were difference-makers for River Birch. Both Nagin and Broussard went to prison on unrelated corruption charges. But before Thursday's settlement, some of the trash giant's story had already been marked off-limits. The most headline-making — and potentially lucrative — of Waste Management’s claims was that Nagin’s abrupt 2006 decision to close the brand-new Chef Menteur landfill in New Orleans East stemmed from his recent receipt of $20,000 in bundled contributions from "straw" firms tied to River Birch. Nagin’s decision to close the dump was momentous because tens of millions of dollars in so-called "tipping fees" were in play, thanks to the mountains of debris generated by Hurricane Katrina. The Chef landfill was one of three major facilities near the city that were accepting that waste; one of the others was the U.S. 90 landfill,