Two Individuals Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Launder Bribes Received in Afghanistan

Two individuals have pleaded guilty for their roles in a scheme to launder approximately $250,000 in bribes received from Afghan contractors in Afghanistan.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Edward L. Stanton III and United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee William C. Killian made the announcement.
Jimmy W. Dennis, 44, formerly of Clarksville, Tennessee, and a former First Sergeant with the U.S. Army, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Samuel H. May Jr. of the Western District of Tennessee to conspiracy to launder approximately $250,000 in bribe payments he received from Afghan contractors in Afghanistan.    Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 4, 2014.

James C. Pittman, 45, of Rossville, Georgia, pleaded guilty last Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge William B. Carter of the Eastern District of Tennessee for his role in this conspiracy.    Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 8, 2014.

According to pleadings filed at the time of the guilty pleas, from March 2008 through March 2009, Dennis was an Army Sergeant assigned as a paying agent in the Humanitarian Aid Yard (HA Yard) at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.    Dennis was a member of the team in the HA Yard that purchased supplies from local Afghan vendors for distribution as part of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program for urgent humanitarian relief requirements in Afghanistan.    Dennis and a partner entered into an agreement to steer contracts to certain Afghan vendors in return for approximately $250,000 in cash bribes.

Further according to court pleadings, Dennis smuggled the bribe money back to the United States hidden in packages addressed to his wife, his father and a former Army friend, Pittman.    Dennis sent $80,000 to $100,000 to his father from Afghanistan in packages that contained toy “jingle trucks,” colorfully decorated trucks or buses in Afghanistan and Pakistan.    Dennis hid the money in the rear compartment of the toy trucks.    Dennis also shipped a hope chest to his father containing approximately $100,000 in cash in a concealed compartment.

Also according to court documents, while on leave, Dennis met with Pittman, advised him that he had obtained money through kickbacks, and asked him for help laundering the funds.    Pittman, owner of a landscaping business, agreed to “run through his company” these bribery proceeds.  After returning to Afghanistan, Dennis sent approximately $60,000 to Pittman contained in toy jingle trucks.    Dennis also arranged for his father to send approximately $20,000 to Pittman, who returned it in the form of purported salary checks from Pittman’s company.

These matters are being investigated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the FBI, the Army Criminal Investigative Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigation.    The prosecution is being handled by Trial Attorney Daniel Butler of the Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frederick Godwin of the Western District of Tennessee and James Brooks of the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Abbott Laboratories Pays U.S. $5.475 Million to Settle Claims That Company Paid Kickbacks to Physicians

Abbott Laboratories has agreed to pay the United States $5.475 million to resolve allegations That it violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to induce doctors to implant the company’s carotid, biliary and peripheral vascular products, the Justice Department announced today.  Abbott is a global pharmaceuticals and health care products company based in Abbott Park, Ill.

“Patients have a right to treatment decisions that are based on their own medical needs, not the personal financial interests of their health care providers,” said Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice.  “Kickbacks undermine the ability of health care providers to objectively evaluate and treat their patients, and will continue to be a primary focus of the Department’s health care enforcement efforts.”

The settlement resolves allegations that Abbott knowingly paid prominent physicians for teaching assignments, speaking engagements and conferences with the expectation that these physicians would arrange for the hospitals with which they were affiliated to purchase Abbott’s carotid, biliary and peripheral vascular products.  As a result, the United States alleged Abbott violated the Anti-Kickback Act and caused the submission of false claims to Medicare for the procedures in which these Abbott products were used.

“Physicians should make decisions regarding medical devices based on what is in the best interest of patients without being induced by payments from manufacturers competing for their business,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Killian of the Eastern District of Tennessee.

“Offering financial inducements can distort health care decision-making,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General in Atlanta.  “OIG and our law enforcement partners vigilantly protect government health programs from such alleged abuses.”

Carotid and peripheral vascular products are used to treat circulatory disorders by increasing blood flow to the head and various parts of the body, respectively.  Biliary products are used to treat obstructions that occur in the bile ducts.

The settlement resolves allegations originally brought in a lawsuit filed by Steven Peters and Douglas Gray, former Abbott employees, under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act , which allows whistleblowers to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in any recovery   As part of today’s resolution, Peters and Gray will receive a total payment of morethan $1 million.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $17 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $12.2 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

This settlement was the result of an investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Division, theU.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Tennessee and the Northern District of Californiaand the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Peters et al. v. Abbott Laboratories, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:09-CV-430 (E.D. Tenn.).   The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Pleads Guilty in Tennessee to Bribery Scheme

A former U.S. Army staff sergeant pleaded guilty today to accepting thousands of dollars in bribes from contractors while he was deployed to Iraq, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee William C. Killian.

Richard A. Gilliland, 44, of Fayetteville, Tenn., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee in the Eastern District of Tennessee to a criminal information charging him with one count of conspiracy to accept illegal bribes.

According to court documents, from October 2007 until November 2008, Gilliland was a U.S. Army staff sergeant who worked with the Civil Affairs Unit at Camp Victory in Iraq and also was assigned as a pay agent responsible for U.S. government funds.  As a pay agent, Gilliland was responsible for paying contractors to perform work in accordance with civil development objectives set forth by U.S. Army commanders in furtherance of the strategic mission of Coalition Forces in Iraq.

While deployed to Iraq in October 2007, Gilliland worked closely with two Iraqi contracting companies and their American representatives.  Gilliland admitted to receiving approximately $27,200 and a laptop in bribes from American representatives of the contracting companies in return for his attempt to influence contracts for the Iraqi-based contractors and his assistance in acquiring used and non-working generators from the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office.  After receiving the bribes, Gilliland wired the cash payments he received back to the United States.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Trial Attorney Mark Grider of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, on detail from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), and Assistant U.S. Attorney John MacCoon of the Eastern District of Tennessee.  The case was investigated by SIGIR.