Defense Contractor Sentenced to 5 Years in Federal Prison for $53 Million Procurement Fraud and Illegal Gratuities Scheme

Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office

District of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

2015-05-29 11.34.57

Friday, April 28, 2017

Defense Contractor Sentenced to 5 Years in Federal Prison for $53 Million Procurement Fraud and Illegal Gratuities Scheme

Baltimore, Maryland – On April 27, 2017, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis sentenced John Wilkerson, age 51, of Moultrie, Georgia to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for a wire fraud conspiracy and for paying illegal gratuities to a government official, in connection with the award of more than $53 million in federal government contracts. Judge Garbis also ordered Wilkerson to pay forfeiture and restitution in the amount of $9,441,340.11.

 

The sentence was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning; Commander of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI); Special Agent in Charge Robert Craig, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Mid-Atlantic Field Office; and U.S. Small Business Administration Acting Inspector General Mike Ware.

 

According to his plea agreement, Wilkerson was a Department of Defense Account Manager for Iron Bow Technologies, LLC (Iron Bow), which provided IT consulting and other services to government and industry customers. Wilkerson was also part owner and operated an information technology company, Superior Communications Solutions, Inc. (SCSI).

 

Andrew Bennett, who was separately charged and has pled guilty, was a program manager for an information technology company, Advanced C4 Solutions, or AC4S, from 2005 until 2011. In 2011, Bennett left AC4S and went to work for Wilkerson at SCSI.

 

James T. Shank, who was separately charged and has pled guilty, was a Program Manager at the United States Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center

 

From September 2009 through August 2012 Wilkerson, Bennett and Shank conspired to steer government contracts at Joint Base Andrews to companies affiliated with Wilkerson and Bennett. After the award of the contracts, Wilkerson offered, and Shank accepted, employment with SCSI while Shank was still a government employee and while he was taking official actions that benefited Wilkerson. In addition, Wilkerson paid Shank $86,000 in the year after Shank retired from government service, funneling the payment through two other companies in order to conceal the source of the funds. Wilkerson also hired Bennett and paid him a $500,000 bonus using proceeds from the fraud scheme.

 

For example, Shank, Wilkerson, and Bennett developed a request for proposal (RFP) for DO27, a contract to supply labor services for an Air Force technology project, including for overall project management services, so that AC4S would win the contract. On June 10, 2010, DO27 was awarded to AC4S in the amount of $18,332,738.10. Wilkerson provided Bennett with a quote for labor on behalf of SCSI that was less than the quote he had previously submitted on behalf of Iron Bow as their sales representative. After SCSI was selected as a subcontractor on DO27, it subcontracted with Iron Bow to provide most of the labor SCSI was supposed to provide under DO27. Wilkerson was able to earn income from the work Iron Bow employees were doing by having SCSI act as a middleman and charging a mark-up on Iron Bow’s work. Wilkerson and Bennett also directed an SCSI employee to create false invoices supposedly documenting the hours SCSI employees spent working on DO27, which were submitted to AC4S and paid by the United States government. SCSI received $6,794,432.98 on DO27 out of the $18 million AC4S received for providing labor for the project.

 

Shank also initiated the procurement process on more than 11 delivery orders that purchased telecommunications equipment and furniture as part of the Air Force project. Those delivery orders were issued to Iron Bow in 2010 and 2011. Wilkerson took multiple items of commercially available furniture, bundled them together and assigned them an SCSI specific number and a price that included a significant mark up over what SCSI paid the furniture manufacturer for the items. Shank then submitted to SPAWAR contracting officers a purchase order asking for authority to buy the bundle of furniture that bore the SCSI specific part number. SCSI received approximately $33 million of the $35 million paid to Iron Bow under the various furniture and equipment delivery orders. Wilkerson charged the United States a 25 percent markup on furniture purchased under these two purchase orders, resulting in a profit to him of more than $6 million.

 

In addition, from 2010 until his retirement in June 2011, Shank falsely certified that the United States government received more than $1 million worth of goods under the W91QUZ-07-D-0010 contract that the government did not in fact receive.

 

In late 2010 or early 2011, Wilkerson offered Shank employment. Shank did not disclose that fact to anyone at SPAWAR and did not recuse himself from any of the contracts that benefited Wilkerson. In February 2011, Bennett left AC4S and went to work for Wilkerson at SCSI. Bennett received a $500,000 bonus when he joined SCSI, which was paid for by profit Wilkerson had earned on the furniture contracts.

 

Shank accepted employment with SCSI in May 2011, but was still working for SPAWAR when he approved more than $1.1 million worth of invoices that benefitted SCSI and Wilkerson.

 

Between July 2011 until August 2012, Wilkerson paid Shank approximately $86,000. The funds that Wilkerson paid Shank were funneled through T&M Communications, LLC, a company owned by T.R., a senior executive at SCSI, who ultimately paid out the funds to Shank. Further, in some instances funds paid to Shank were also funneled through Decision Point Technologies, LLC, another company owned by Wilkerson. Shank did no work for Decision Point Technologies or T&M Communications in that time period.

 

The National Procurement Fraud Task Force was formed in October 2006 to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The Procurement Fraud Task Force includes the United States Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Task Force, demonstrate the Department of Justice’s commitment to helping ensure the integrity of the government procurement process.

 

Acting United States Attorney Stephen M. Schenning thanked Air Force OSI, DCIS, and the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General for their work in the investigation. Mr. Schenning commended Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Wise and Philip A. Selden, who are prosecuting the case.

USDOJ Grants and Grantees now in the Crosshairs

We see continuing signs of reinvigorated grant fraud enforcement.  The latest submisison involves a long simmering dispute that has resurfaced involving corporate fines that are recovered, allocated and spent by USDOJ.  USDOJ grants have been a source of frustration for supporters of the current Administration and some believe that white collar enforcement suffered as perverse incentives encouraged the offsets of criminal cases and terms of imprisonment in favor of large recoveries of fines from corporations (Does anyone from the cartel world recall the furious whispers about this case?).  Now there seems to be Trump Administration-led push to shine a media spotlight on USDOJ grants.  Typically, this foreshadows official actions:

Last night Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was on Fox News discussing the issue speaking in bellicose terms. This accompanied various news articles that covered various aspects of the dispute.

Today on Fox News there is a lengthy piece on the subject with sub links:

“It’s clear partisan politics played a role in the illicit actions that were made,” Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, told Fox News. “The DOJ is the last place this should have occurred.

Findings spearheaded by the House Judiciary Committee point to a process shrouded in secrecy whereby monies were distributed to a labyrinth of nonprofit organizations involved with grass-roots activism.”

To see how far some have delved into this issue, check out this google search.  You have to go to less established media sources like this InfoWars article referencing State Department grants to get a sense of where this could lead (some will need to don protective suits–oh what we have to do for risk analysis!).  Since there was not as much reporting as there could have been, it is likely this issue could get significant play now. There is also likely to be a convergence effect when problems in one grant tranch from one agency  spills over into other grant programs.

This latest resurfacing of this issue by White House allies suggests a trend and it will likely add to calls for a significant realignment of DOJ on the left side of the org chart and also in its mission in terms of how it helps victims. Particularly vulnerable to significant reform are CRS, OJP, COPS, Office of Violence Against Women (grants) (biannual report) and Office of Access to Justice.  Obviously, grants and grantees will be a subject of interest as well.

I have referenced a prior DOJ IG 2016 civil case here.  Designating an enforcement priority can change whether a case is criminal or civil because criminal investigation assets redeploy and there is often a multiplier effect because the combination of criminal and civil enforcement assets allows for parallel investigations.  Overnight,  a larger swath of FBI agents start trolling for footholds in grants or procurement areas.  Not good.  When investigators expand the duration or number of grants reviewed, when they send agents to do coordinated interviews while serving grand jury and inspector general subpoenas and when AUSA’s start calling witnesses before traditional grand jury investigations, things can change fast.

Procurement Fraud and Grant Fraud enforcement programs are likely to be revitalized by the Trump Administration.

It’s no shock that a political change in the Executive Branch leads to an increase in grant fraud and procurement fraud enforcement. The reason? There is low risk in scrutinizing grants and contracts awarded by the outgoing administration. Whatever shenanigans are discovered by a new Administration will have occurred during the term of the previous administration and any negative economic impacts from pulling a grant or imposing a fine, will only impact the grant recipient and, potentially, its subcontractors, who are often presumed by an incoming Administration to have stronger ties to its predecessor.

Imagine you are a high-level Department of Justice official in a new administration positioned to deploy resources toward matters you believe most merit investigation and possible prosecution.  You will need to work on accomplishing the new Administrations mission as well as continue to satisfy your existing management chain with positive results.  What is the best way to move forward in this environment.

The most obvious way is to go after the low-hanging fruit: to aim the enforcement initiative at situations in which there is a high risk/reward ratio. Nowhere in white collar enforcement, is this ratio more favorable than in the realm of grant fraud and procurement fraud enforcement (GFPFE). Contributing to the richness of this area from an enforcement standpoint is that since 2009 the enforcement apparatus adopted a rigid prevention model, decreased the number of federal agents developing cases, increased barriers between the investigations and audit components of the Office of Inspector Generals (OIG’s) and made it more difficult to engage in aggressive or effective GFPFE.[1] This shift away from effective GFPFE in 2009 coincided with the largest spending increase in government history so it stands to reason there will be plenty of cases worth developing.

* * * Click Here for the Rest of the #GFPFE Analysis * * *

 

Department of Energy OIG Enforcement under a Trump Administration

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) is a Cabinet-level department of the United States Government. Its responsibilities include the nation’s nuclear weapons program, nuclear reactor production for the United States Navyenergy conservation, energy-related research, radioactive waste disposal, and domestic energy production. It also directs research in genomics; the Human Genome Project originated in an iniative between DOE, NIH and international collaborators.  DOE sponsors more research in the physical sciences than any other U.S. federal agency, the majority of which is conducted through its system of National Laboratories.

Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry has been nominated as the next Secretary of Energy, and a vote is anticipated in the next few weeks.  April Stephenson currently serves as Acting Inspector General United States Secretary of Energy and will continue to head the department,  unless Secretary Perry makes a change. As a practical matter, DOE is unlikely to get a permanent Inspector General installed for many months. This means that its roughly 70 investigative agents in roughly 12 US cities will engage in enforcement that is somewhat skewed by perceptions about what a future Secretary of Energy will want.  For these reasons, I would project that investigative agents will believe they will ultimately receive more overhead support for investigations developed now.

Based on basic familiarity with DOE contracts and DOE-OIG investigative activity in the past as well as reasonable assumptions about how agents will interpret statements made by Trump Administration officials, I see three primary areas where agents will likely focus current efforts to develop cases:

1) Clean-up Sites.

Clean-up sites are viewed as cash cows with poor oversight.  I have lost track of how many there are, but there are  more than half a dozen prime ones including Hanford, Idaho Falls and Savanah River.  The Hanford site is an example of a site that has had longstanding troubles.  CH2MHill took a hit back in 2013 for an $18.5 million qui tam and, just recently, at the same site, BNI and URS agreed to  pay $125 Million for false claims regarding deficient nuclear quality procurements and improper payments to lobby Congress.  Internal conjecture is that there are more false claims being made at these and at other clean-up sites and it would behoove any companies involved at these sites to brush up on compliance and internally investigate around vulnerabilities or weaknesses.

2) Management and Operational (M&O) Contracts

Management Operations Contractors, whether deserved or not, are a source of frustration to enforcers.  These are huge, large dollar volume contracts that are viewed by enforcers as having poor oversight.  Other sources of frustration is that enforcers believe that they have no visibility with indirect contractors.  This feeling is even generally held in regard to direct contractors where transparency is lacking and contractors are perceived as foot dragging.  Because of lack of appetite in some US Attorney’s Offices for these complex investigations, there was less support in the past few years than perhaps there could have been, but I believe this will begin to change as the Trump Administrations enforcement priorities becomes more clear.

3) Green Grants

Although these are smaller dollar volume contracts, legal theories are easier to fashion around bite-sized grants and the story around each is usually more accessible to prosecutors and potential juries.  There is lingering resentment that politics adversely affected investigations that adversely impacted potential prosecutions (see Solyndra as an often cited example in the opinion of some) and there is a view among enforcers that investigations involving more than $2 billion in green grants and associated loans guaranteed by the government were never pursued appropriately.

* * * * * Here for the Rest of the Story * * * * * 

 

Founder of Non-Profit Charged with Bribing Former Prince George’s County Official in Exchange for Grant Funds

A Maryland man has been charged with bribery and making false statements as part of an alleged scheme to obtain government grants for a charitable organization of which he was the founder. The  case was brought via a criminal complaint filed by the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland. It alleges that the defendant made three annual payments of $5000 each to a member of the Prince George’s County Council to secure annual grants of $25,000 for the Salvadoran Business Caucus, which claimed to award scholarships to high school and college students.
The agent affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint describes conversations  that allegedly occurred between the council member and  the defendant in sufficient detail as to indicate that tape recordings of the conversations exist.
Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Greenbelt, Maryland – A criminal complaint has been filed charging

, of Rockville, Maryland, late yesterday with bribery and making false statements in connection with a scheme to engage in bribery in order to influence a public official in the performance of his official duties in Prince George’s County. Ayala’s initial appearance is scheduled today at 1:45 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The criminal complaint was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Acting Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Holloman of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Chief Hank Stawinski of the Prince George’s County Police Department.

According to affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Ayala was an accountant and founder of Ayala and Associates Public Accountants in Washington, D.C. Ayala was also the founder of the Salvadoran Business Caucus, a non-profit organization also known as the Caucus Salvadoreno Empresarial, Inc. (CSE). CSE’s website stated that CSE awarded scholarships to high school and college students.

The affidavit alleges that Ayala paid bribes to former Prince George’s County Council Member Will Campos in exchange for grant funding. Specifically, the affidavit alleges that Ayala paid Campos $5,000 for each of County fiscal years 2012 through 2015, in exchange for $25,000 in grants to CSE in each of those years. For example, on August 13, 2014, Campos met with Ayala for lunch in Washington, D.C. During the meeting, Ayala asked Campos what would happen after Campos left his position on the County Council and assumed his position within the Maryland General Assembly. According to the affidavit, Ayala advised, “The arrangement is still on,” and Campos asked if Ayala had anything for Campos. Ayala asked Campos to give him two weeks, and “I [Ayala] call you and I’ll say let’s, let’s have a drink and you know what it’s for.” Campos asked for $5,000, “like last time,” and Ayala agreed.

According to the affidavit, on September 23, 2014, Ayala had dinner with Campos at a restaurant in Silver Spring, Maryland, and discussed the grant money. Specifically, Campos advised that he would push for Ayala to still receive grant money after Campos left office. At the conclusion of the meal, Ayala walked Campos out of the restaurant and allegedly handed Campos an envelope bearing a label for CSE and containing a cashier’s check for half the agreed upon amount. The affidavit alleges that Ayala explained, “I was unable to obtain cash. It’s better like this. This comes from – from a third party who knows me, so it’s better.” Campos joked that Ayala was paying “half now, half later,” and Ayala responded, “I would say that.”

According to the affidavit, on January 8, 2015, Ayala met with Campos at Ayala’s office in Washington, D.C. Ayala reached into his desk and retrieved an envelope. Ayala handed the envelope to Campos, who asked if it was “the rest that we talked about? 2,500?” and Ayala responded, “Yeah.” The affidavit alleges that inside the envelope, Ayala had placed $2,500 in cash.

On January 5, 2017, Ayala was interviewed by federal law enforcement agents. The affidavit alleges that Ayala denied providing anything of value to Campos in exchange for receiving Prince George’s County grant money for CSE. Thereafter, agents showed Ayala still photographs from videos taken while Ayala was making bribe payments to Campos on September 23, 2014 and January 8, 2015.

If convicted, Ayala faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison for bribery, and a maximum of five years in prison for false statements. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI, IRS-CI, and Prince Georges County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas P. Windom, Mara Zusman Greenberg, and James A. Crowell IV, who are prosecuting the case.

Latest GrantFraud.Com post involves a $200 million credit card fraud scheme

Bradford L. Geyer is reading enforcement agency tea leaves and he is seeing signs of enhanced enforcement involving grant fraud and procurement fraud at grantfraud.com.  His latest note regarding an extensive credit card fraud scheme can be found here.

American Metals Market Report on Hong Kong Unsealing by FormerFedsGroup of 13 Metric Tons of Mutilated Clad Coins Processed by Wealthy Max

2015-05-29 11.34.57

The country’s oldest and most respected metals market trade publication, AMM, attended the Hong Kong unsealing of 13 metric tons of US clad coins on February 23rd that were processed in Foshan, China by the Wealthy Max quality assurance line in September, 2014, immediately following its processing of four shipments of mutilated clad coins that were seized by the government as being counterfeit.  Now, the US Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which played no role in creating this mess, has, sensibly, reasonably and in good faith, has started referring to the coins as not meeting Mint specifications rather than in the preposterous terms used by the US Attorney’s Office of New Jersey and the Department of Homeland Security who, preposterously, continue to allege counterfeiting in one of the most slipshod, ramshackle and careless investigations in recent memory.  Linked here is the carefully researched article.

Former Supervisory Contracting Officer Arrested in Navy Bribery Scandal

A former senior federal contracting officer was arrested this morning for conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with his alleged role in a scheme to steer contracts and benefits to Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a defense contracting firm headquartered in Singapore.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California, Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Deputy Inspector General of Investigations James B. Burch of the Department of Defense (DCIS) made the announcement.

“Today’s arrest in this ongoing investigation demonstrates our continued resolve to root out all of the corrupt officials involved in this bribery scheme,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “As alleged, Paul Simpkins misused his position as a contracting officer at the U.S. Navy to obtain bribes of cash, air travel, hotel rooms, and prostitutes, and his actions tarnish the reputation earned by the vast majority of U.S. Navy officers and enlisted and civilian personnel.”

“With the arrest of Paul Simpkins, who was recently among the Defense Department’s high ranking civilians we have uncovered yet another tentacle of this pervasive bribery scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Duffy.  “The more we learn about the extent of the greed and corruption, the more determined we are to eviscerate it.”

“As we’ve mentioned previously, the GDMA investigation is far from over,” said Director Traver.  “NCIS will follow the evidence wherever it leads, to bring to justice those who were involved in perpetrating this massive fraud on the Department of the Navy and the American taxpayer.  Active leads remain and NCIS will stay on the case until our work is done.”

“As the filing of today’s Criminal Complaint and subsequent arrest of Paul Simpkins shows, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and its law enforcement partners will continue to identify and investigate those individuals who seek to defraud the U.S. taxpayer,” said Deputy Inspector General of Investigations Burch.  “Any individual, regardless of position, who allowed Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. to prosper at the expense of the American taxpayer, will be brought to justice.”

Paul Simpkins, 60, of Haymarket, Virginia, is the latest individual to be arrested in connection with a corruption probe involving the U.S. Navy, GDMA, and its owner, Leonard Glenn Francis.  At this morning’s hearing, United States Magistrate Judge Jones of the Eastern District of Virginia ordered Simpkins to be detained pending a bond hearing set for Feb. 4, 2015.  To date, seven individuals, including Francis, and GDMA have entered guilty pleas as part of the investigation.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed today, Simpkins held several manager-level contracting positions throughout the federal government, including Supervisory Contract Special at the U.S. Navy Regional Contracting Center in Singapore from April 2005 through June 2007, and manager in the Department of Defense’s Office of Small Business Programs from December 2007 to August 2012.  The complaint alleges that between May 2006 and September 2012, Simpkins accepted several hundred thousand dollars in cash and wire transfers, travel and entertainment expenses, hotel rooms and the services of prostitutes.  In return, Simpkins allegedly helped steer lucrative U.S. Navy contracts to Francis and GDMA, advocated for and advanced the interests of GDMA in contract disputes, and assisted in preventing GDMA’s competitors from receiving U.S. Navy business.

The complaint specifically alleges that, beginning in early 2006, Simpkins and Francis held a series of meetings at a hotel in Singapore in which Francis agreed to provide Simpkins with things of value in return for help in steering lucrative ship husbanding contracts to GDMA.  Specifically, the complaint alleges that Francis paid Simpkins by hand-delivering over $150,000 in cash and by making several wire transfers to a bank account held in the name of Simpkins’s wife at the time.  To conceal the true nature of the wire transfers, Simpkins allegedly used an email account belonging to his mistress to advise Francis of the routing and account information of the bank account belonging to his wife.

In return for the things of value, Simpkins allegedly used his influence within the U.S. Navy to benefit GDMA, including by helping GDMA to secure lucrative ship husbanding contracts to service U.S. Navy vessels in Thailand and the Philippines.  In addition, Simpkins allegedly interceded on GDMA’s behalf in contract disputes with the U.S. Navy.  The complaint specifically alleges that in 2006, Simpkins’s subordinate recommended that GDMA’s husbanding contract in Thailand not be extended due to “many exceedingly high cost” items.  Simpkins allegedly overruled his subordinate and extended GDMA’s contract.

In another example, Simpkins allegedly instructed U.S. Navy officials in Hong Kong to discontinue the use of meters that monitored the volume of liquid waste that GDMA removed from U.S. Navy ships under its husbanding contracts.  The use of these meters would have ensured proper accounting of the actual amount of waste removed to ensure that no overbilling occurred.  Simpkins also allegedly instructed a U.S. Navy official not to review invoices that GDMA submitted in connection to a recent port call in Hong Kong after Francis complained that U.S. Navy personnel were asking questions.

The charges contained in a complaint are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by NCIS and DCIS.The case is being prosecuted by Director of Procurement Fraud Catherine Votaw and Senior Trial Attorney Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Robert S. Huie of the Southern District of California.

Those with information relating to fraud, corruption or waste in government contracting should contact the NCIS anonymous tip line at www.ncis.navy.mil or the DOD Hotline at www.dodig.mil/hotline, or call (800) 424-9098.

U.S. Navy Commander Pleads Guilty in International Bribery Scandal

Second U.S. Navy Officer Indicted on Related Bribery Charges

A commander in the U.S. Navy pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges today, admitting that he provided a government contractor with classified ship schedules and other internal U.S. Navy information in exchange for cash, travel and entertainment expenses, as well as the services of prostitutes.  A second U.S. Navy officer was also indicted today on related bribery charges by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of California.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California, Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Deputy Inspector General of Investigations James B. Burch of the Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) made the announcement.

“Commander Sanchez sold out his command and country for cash bribes, luxury hotel rooms, and the services of prostitutes,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “After today’s guilty plea, instead of free stays at the Shangri-La hotel, Sanchez is facing many nights in federal prison.  The Department of Justice’s Criminal Division is committed to prosecuting those who abuse positions of public trust for personal enrichment at the expense of national security and the American taxpayers.”

“During the course of the investigation into this criminal enterprise, investigators have compiled voluminous evidence identifying multiple persons of interest, generating numerous leads, and establishing and corroborating connections,” said Director Traver.  “NCIS and our law enforcement partners are committed to seeing this massive fraud and bribery investigation through to its conclusion, so that those responsible are held accountable.”

“This outcome yet again sends the message that corruption will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” said Deputy Inspector General of Investigations Burch.  “This is an unfortunate example of dishonorable Naval officers who recklessly risked the safety of our troops by trading classified information for cash, extravagant gifts and prostitutes.  Cases such as these are not motivated by need or other difficult personal circumstances; they are the product of simple greed.  This investigation should serve as a warning that those who compromise the integrity of the United States will face their day of reckoning.  DCIS and our law enforcement partners will pursue these crimes relentlessly.”

Jose Luis Sanchez, 42, an active duty U.S. Navy Officer stationed in San Diego, California, is one of seven defendants charged – and the fifth to plead guilty – in the corruption probe involving Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a defense contractor based in Singapore that serviced U.S. Navy ships and submarines throughout the Pacific.  Sanchez pleaded guilty to bribery and bribery conspiracy before U.S. Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick of the Southern District of California.  A sentencing hearing was scheduled for March 27, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino.

According to his plea agreement, from April 2008 to April 2013, Sanchez held various logistical positions with the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet in Asia.  Sanchez admitted that, beginning in September 2009, he entered into a bribery scheme with Leonard Glenn Francis, the CEO of GDMA, in which Sanchez provided classified U.S. Navy ship schedules and other sensitive U.S. Navy information to Francis and used his position and influence within the U.S. Navy to benefit GDMA.  In return, Francis gave him things of value such as cash, travel and entertainment expenses, and the services of prostitutes.  Sanchez admitted that this bribery scheme continued until September 2013.  Francis was charged in a complaint unsealed on Nov. 6, 2013, with conspiring to commit bribery; that charge remains pending.

In his plea agreement, Sanchez admitted to seven specific instances in which he provided Francis with classified U.S. Navy ship and submarine schedules.  He also admitted using his position and influence with the U.S. Navy to benefit GDMA and Francis on various occasions.  Further, Sanchez admitted that he tipped Francis off about investigations into GDMA overbillings and briefed Francis on internal U.S. Navy deliberations.

Sanchez further admitted that, in exchange for this information, Francis provided him with cash, entertainment and stays at high-end hotels.  For example, in May 2012, Francis paid for Sanchez to stay five nights at the Shangri-La, a luxury hotel in Singapore, and, two months later, Francis paid for Sanchez’s travel from Asia to the United States, at a cost of over $7,500.  Additionally, Francis arranged and paid for the services of prostitutes for Sanchez while Sanchez was in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia.

In addition to Sanchez, two other U.S. Navy officials – former NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau and Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug – have pleaded guilty in connection with this investigation.Two former GDMA executives, Alex Wisidagama and Edmond Aruffo, have likewise pleaded guilty.

Also today, an indictment was returned against U.S. Navy Captain-Select Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 47, of San Diego, California, charging him with a bribery conspiracy and seven counts of bribery.  According to allegations in the indictment, from at least as early as July 2011 until  September 2013, Misiewicz provided classified U.S. Navy ship schedules and other sensitive U.S. Navy information to Francis and used his position and influence within the U.S. Navy to benefit GDMA.  In return Francis allegedly gave him things of value such as cash, travel and entertainment expenses, and the services of prostitutes.

The charges contained in a criminal complaint and indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by NCIS, DCIS and the Defense Contract Audit Agency. The case is being prosecuted by Director of Procurement Fraud Catherine Votaw and Trial Attorney Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Robert S. Huie of the Southern District of California.

Civilian Navy Employee Found Guilty of Obstruction and False Statements After Jury Trial

A federal jury today returned a guilty verdict against a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy posted at the Capodichino Navy Base near Naples, Italy, for obstructing an investigation and making false statements, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt of the Southern District of Iowa.

Steven William Ashton, 41, with a last known U.S. residence in Davenport, Iowa, was found guilty after a nine-day jury trial of creating false documents to obstruct the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigation into Ashton’s private consulting business called BlackGrid Consulting LLC.  The jury also found Ashton guilty of making false statements about his tour of duty in order to obtain federal benefits and access to military bases worldwide.

The evidence at trial showed that the NCIS was investigating Ashton for conflicts of interest and using inside government information to advance his business.  When Ashton learned about the investigation, he created fraudulent documentation purporting to show that he had fully disclosed his business to Navy authorities and received approval.  At Ashton’s direction, his defense counsel unwittingly submitted those false documents to the prosecutors and gave other false explanations to the Justice Department.

According to the evidence presented at trial, from April 2004 to March 2013, Ashton was employed by the Navy as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Host Nation Programs Manager for the regions of Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia, responsible for managing contracts and agreements among the Navy and other countries to support the United States’ military efforts.

He was found not guilty on charges of theft of government funds for obtaining housing benefits, called Living Quarters Assistance, to which he was not entitled, and of obstructing that investigation.

This case was investigated by the NCIS and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.  The case is being prosecuted by Director of Procurement Fraud Litigation Catherine Votaw of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Clifford Cronk of the Southern District of Iowa.

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