Former Navy Noncommissioned Officer Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes While Serving in Afghanistan

A former Navy noncommissioned officer pleaded guilty today to accepting approximately $25,000 in cash bribes from vendors while he served in Afghanistan.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Canova of the Northern District of Florida, Assistant Director in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Washington, D.C., Field Office, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko, Director Frank Robey of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (Army CID), Acting Special Agent in Charge Paul Sternal of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office and Brigadier General Keith M. Givens of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (Air Force OSI).

Donald P. Bunch, 46, of Pace, Florida, pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida to a one-count information charging him with accepting bribes.  Sentencing is scheduled to take place on Dec. 8, 2015.

From February to August 2009, Bunch worked as an U.S. Navy E8 senior chief at the Humanitarian Assistance Yard (HA Yard) at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.  The HA Yard purchased supplies from local Afghan vendors for use as part of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which enabled U.S. military commanders to respond to urgent humanitarian relief requirements in Afghanistan.

Bunch was responsible for replenishing food and supplies such as rice, beans and clothing at the HA Yard, and for selecting vendors from a pre-determined list to provide the necessary items.  In connection with his guilty plea, Bunch admitted that he had been instructed by his predecessor to rotate among the vendors.

According to admissions made in connection with his plea agreement, certain Afghan vendors offered, and Bunch accepted, money for the purpose of influencing his selection of vendors.  Bunch admitted that he received a total of approximately $25,000 from the vendors and that, as a result, he secured on their behalf more frequent and lucrative contracts.  Bunch also admitted that he sent greeting cards stuffed with proceeds of the bribes to his wife at their residence in Florida, and that they used the money to pay for the construction of a new home.

This case was investigated by the FBI, SIGAR, Army CID, DCIS and Air Force OSI.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Daniel P. Butler of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David L. Goldberg of the Northern District of Florida.

United States Files Complaint in False Claims Act Lawsuit Alleging Defense Contractors Knowingly Overcharged the Navy on Aircraft Maintenance Contract

The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed its complaint in intervention in a case against defendants Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and two of its subsidiaries, Sikorsky Support Services Inc. and Derco Aerospace Inc., for violating the False Claims Act.  Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, with headquarters in Stratford, Connecticut.

The government’s complaint alleges that Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation approved an illegal cost-plus-a-percentage-of-cost subcontract between Sikorsky Support Services Inc., and Derco Aerospace.  A cost-plus-a-percentage-of-cost contract is one where the cost of performance is unknown in advance and compensation is determined based on the cost of performance plus an agreed-to percentage of such costs.  Such contracts are prohibited because they give contractors no incentive to control the cost of performance.  The complaint further alleges the defendants used this illegal subcontract to overcharge the Navy on parts and materials that were used to maintain Navy aircraft.

“Those who contract with the federal government and accept taxpayer dollars, must follow the rules,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Today’s complaint demonstrates, once again, that the Department of Justice will not tolerate contractors who engage in schemes to defraud the armed forces or any other agency of the United States.”

“The claims in the civil complaint that we have filed reflect our focused and purposeful investigative work in identifying and seeking remedies for false claims in government contracting,” said U.S. Attorney James L. Santelle for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.  “Under the authority of the False Claims Act, we pursue fraud of this sort to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent lawfully and that overcharges and other types of contracting misconduct are addressed.”

The complaint was filed in a case brought under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act by Mary J. Patzer, a former employee of Derco.  Under the False Claims Act, a private citizen, called a “relator,” may bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  The government may intervene in the case, as the government has done here.  The False Claims Act allows the government to recover treble damages and penalties from those who violate it.

The case is being handled jointly by the Civil Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Patzer v. United Technologies Corporation, et al., No. 11-C-560 (E.D. Wis.).  The claims made in the complaint are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.