WASHINGTON – A Houston woman pleaded guilty today to bribery charges for her role in a scheme to fraudulently bill the U.S. Army for trucking services in Afghanistan, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Diyana Montes, 29, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg in the District of Columbia to one count of bribery.
According to court documents, from approximately April 2008 through December 2008, Montes was an employee of Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a private contractor with operations in Afghanistan. Montes worked at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, where KBR held a contract with the United States.
KBR’s contract involved providing services to the Army’s Movement Control Branch (MCB). The MCB’s mission was to contract with local Afghan trucking companies to transport U.S. military equipment, fuel and other supplies throughout Afghanistan. As part of this mission, the MCB coordinated requests from various U.S. military units for trucking services and assigned those requests to particular contractors. Each trucking request generated various specific documents, including “transportation movement requests” (TMR), which authorized the use of trucks.
According to court documents, Montes’s duties included receiving TMRs from various contractors and reconciling any discrepancies between the amount of services described in the TMRs and the amount of services the contractors claimed in their invoices. Once Montes reviewed the documents and determined they were accurate, she would pass them on to other contracting personnel, who would rely on her review in approving payments to the trucking company.
On numerous occasions, according to court documents, Montes received and reviewed TMRs and invoices for services allegedly provided by Afghanistan Trade Transportation (ATT), a trucking company contracted by the U.S. Army, that fraudulently represented that ATT provided services that Montes knew were not in fact performed. According to Montes’s plea agreement, she knew the invoices from ATT contained service claims that were not accurate, and she passed them along for payment with the knowledge that the billings were fraudulent.
According to her plea agreement, from approximately May 2008 through December 2008, in return for her knowingly handling the fraudulent TMRs and invoices, Montes received from ATT approximately $50,000, consisting of $35,000 wired to her personal bank account in the United States and another $15,000 in cash paid to her on several occasions in Afghanistan.
This case is being prosecuted by Special Trial Attorney Mark H. Dubester of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and former Fraud Section Trial Attorney Mark Pletcher, currently of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. The case was investigated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI.
WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Salt Lake City today returned an 11-count indictment charging a former FBI special agent and two alleged accomplices with a scheme to use the agent’s official position to derail a federal investigation into the conduct of one of the alleged conspirators. The charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah David B. Barlow and Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.
The indictment charges former FBI special agent Robert G. Lustyik Jr., 50, of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.; Michael L. Taylor, 51, of Harvard, Mass., the principal of Boston-based American International Security Corporation (AISC); and Johannes W. Thaler, 49, of New Fairfield, Conn., each with one count of conspiracy, eight counts of honest services wire fraud, one count of obstructing justice and one count of obstructing an agency proceeding.
“According to the indictment, while active in the FBI, former Special Agent Lustyik used his position in an attempt to stave off the criminal investigation of a business partner with whom he was pursuing lucrative security and energy contracts,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “He allegedly acted through a childhood friend to secure promises of cash, purported medical expenses and business proceeds in exchange for abusing his position as an FBI agent. The alleged conduct is outrageous, and we will do everything we can to ensure that justice is done in this case.”
DOJ Inspector General Horowitz stated: “Law enforcement officers are sworn to uphold the law. Agents who would sell their badges and impede the administration of justice will be vigorously pursued.”
According to the indictment, Robert Lustyik was an FBI special agent until September 2012, assigned to counterintelligence work in White Plains, N.Y. The indictment also states that from at least June 2011, the three alleged conspirators had a business relationship involving the pursuit of contracts for security services, electric power and energy development, among other things, in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.
The indictment alleges that in September 2011, Taylor learned of a federal criminal investigation, begun in Utah in 2010, into whether Taylor, his business and others committed fraud in the award and performance of a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense.
Soon thereafter, Taylor allegedly began to give and offer things of value to Lustyik in exchange for Lustyik’s agreement to use his official position to impair and impede the Utah investigation. The indictment also alleges that Thaler, a childhood friend of Lustyik’s, served as a conduit between Taylor and Lustyik, passing information and things of value.
Specifically, the indictment charges that Taylor offered Lustyik a $200,000 cash payment; money purportedly for the medical expenses of Lustyik’s minor child; and a share in the proceeds of several anticipated contracts worth millions of dollars.
According to the indictment, Lustyik used his official FBI position to impede the Utah investigation by, among other things, designating Taylor as an FBI confidential source, texting and calling the Utah investigators and prosecutors to dissuade them from charging Taylor and attempting to interview potential witnesses and targets in the Utah investigation. As alleged in the indictment, Lustyik wrote to Taylor that he was going to interview one of Taylor’s co-defendants and “blow the doors off this thing.” Referring to the Utah investigation, Lustyik also allegedly assured Taylor that he would not stop in his “attempt to sway this your way.”
According to the indictment, Lustyik, Taylor and Thaler attempted to conceal the full extent of Lustyik’s relationship with Taylor from the Utah prosecutors and agents, including by making and planning to make material misrepresentations and omissions to federal law enforcement involved in the investigation of Taylor.
For example, the indictment alleges that on Sept. 8, 2012, after Taylor was searched at the border and his computer seized, Lustyik sent a text message to Thaler, stating: “You might have to save me and testify that only you r doing business.” Nine days later, according to the indictment, Thaler told federal law enforcement agents – in a voluntary, recorded interview – that Lustyik was not involved in Taylor’s and Thaler’s business.
The pair also allegedly used an email “dead drop” to avoid leaving a record of their interactions and used the names of football teams and nicknames as part of their coded communications.
Taylor and Lustyik were both previously arrested on prior criminal complaints in this case. Taylor has been detained pending trial and Lustyik received a $2 million bond. Thaler is expected to surrender to authorities tomorrow.
If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge, 20 years in prison on each of the wire fraud charges, 10 years in prison on the obstruction of justice charge and five years in prison on the obstruction of an agency proceeding charge. Each charge also carries a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of any proceeds traceable to the conspiracy, wire fraud and obstruction of justice offenses.
The case is being investigated by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General and prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Kevin Driscoll and Maria Lerner of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section; Acting Deputy Chief Pamela Hicks, Acting Assistant Deputy Chief Jeannette Gunderson and Trial Attorney Ann Marie Blaylock of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Esqueda.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Army Sergeant Christopher Weaver pleaded guilty today to bribery charges for his role in the theft of fuel at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Fenty, near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, announced Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer.
Weaver, 29, of Fort Carson, Colo., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Marcia S. Krieger in the District of Colorado to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one count of bribery.
Weaver’s plea is the second guilty plea arising from an investigation into fuel thefts at FOB Fenty. On Aug. 3, 2012, Weaver’s co-conspirator Jonathan Hightower, 30, of Houston, pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme.
According to court documents, from approximately January 2010 through June 2010, Weaver and Hightower were involved in overseeing the delivery of fuel from FOB Fenty to other military bases. As part of this process, documents generally described as “transportation movement requests” (TMRs) were created, which authorized the movement of the fuel. Weaver pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy in which fraudulent TMRs, which purported to authorize the transport of fuel from FOB Fenty to other military bases, were created even though no legitimate fuel transportation was required. After the trucks were filled with fuel, these fraudulent documents were used by the drivers of the fuel trucks at FOB Fenty’s departure checkpoint in order to justify the trucks’ departures from FOB Fenty. In truth, according to court documents, the fuel was simply stolen.
Weaver pleaded guilty to receiving payments from a representative of a military contractor that was responsible for transporting fuel in Afghanistan in exchange for facilitating the theft of approximately 100 fuel trucks. According to Weaver’s signed plea agreement, the loss to the United States as a result of the scheme was in excess of $1.5 million. According to court documents, Weaver sent cash back from Afghanistan to the United States, in part, by mailing the money inside a stuffed bear.
According to court documents, Hightower worked in Afghanistan as an employee of FLUOR Inc., a U.S. government contractor, from January 2010 to June 2010, where he served as a petroleum supply specialist and was responsible for receiving and disbursing fuel – primarily jet fuel known as JP-8 – for use at FOB Fenty or for transport to other military bases. According to court documents, Hightower, Weaver and others would receive cash from a representative of a military contractor that was responsible for transporting fuel in Afghanistan, and the money would be apportioned among the conspirators.
Hightower pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Martinez in the District of Colorado to two counts of conspiracy to receive bribes – one count involving his conspiracy with Weaver, and another count involving his conspiracy with another alleged co-conspirator at FOB Fenty. Hightower admitted facilitating the theft of over 100 trucks of fuel and a loss to the United States in excess of $1.5 million.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark W. Pletcher of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, formerly of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and Special Trial Attorney Mark H. Dubester of the Fraud Section. The cases were investigated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction; the Department of the Army, Criminal Investigations Division; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the FBI; and the Department of the Air Force, Office of Special Investigations. Valuable assistance was also provided by the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.
WASHINGTON – Two former employees of The Parsons Company, an international engineering and construction firm, were sentenced in federal court in the Northern District of Alabama for their participation in a kickback conspiracy in Iraq and related tax crimes, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Joyce White Vance.
Billy Joe Hunt, 57, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon in federal court in Huntsville, Ala., to 15 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $66,212 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and forfeiture of $236,472. Gaines R. Newell Jr., 53, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Virginia Hopkins in federal court in Birmingham, Ala., to 27 months in prison, three years of supervised release, $1,102,115 in restitution ($861,027 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and $241,088 to the IRS) and forfeiture of $861,027.
On May 8, 2012, Hunt pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and pay kickbacks, and one count of subscribing a false tax return. On April 10, 2012, Newell pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and to pay kickbacks, and one count of subscribing a false tax return.
According to court documents, Newell and Hunt were employed by Parsons in Iraq as program manager and deputy program manager, respectively, under a contract that Parsons held to support the Coalition Munitions Clearance Program operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Huntsville. The Coalition Munitions Program sought to preclude insurgents and other unfriendly groups from getting munitions that had been stockpiled, abandoned or seized, and using them against Coalition forces or the Iraqi public. In their plea proceedings, Newell and Hunt admitted taking over $1 million in kickbacks from subcontractors from 2005 to 2007, in return for arranging to award contracts on the munitions clearance program to subcontractors. Newell and Hunt also admitted filing false federal income tax returns by not disclosing kickback income.
On May 21, 2012, Hunt and Newell’s co-conspirator Ahmed Sarchil Kazzaz, 45, pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme. Kazzaz and his business, Leadstay Company, were indicted in the Northern District of Alabama in September 2011 for paying over $947,000 in kickbacks to Newell and Hunt. According to the plea agreement, between March 2006 and June 2007, Kazzaz agreed to pay kickbacks to Newell and Hunt totaling 13 percent of the amounts paid by Parsons, and thus obtained over $23 million in subcontracts providing materials and equipment to Parsons. After Kazzaz’s arrest in Los Angeles on Dec. 2, 2011, this case was transferred to the Central District of California, where Kazzaz pleaded guilty. His sentencing is set for Oct. 29, 2012 before U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in the Central District of California.
The cases are being prosecuted by Catherine Votaw, Director of Procurement Fraud for the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Estes of the Northern District of Alabama. The investigation was handled by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the IRS-Criminal Investigations Division and the FBI.
WASHINGTON – A former co-owner of a U.S. civilian contractor company pleaded guilty today to falsifying official documents in connection with Iraq reconstruction government contracts, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman for the Western District of Texas.
Jill Ann Charpia, 33, formerly of San Antonio and currently of Colorado, pleaded guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry J. Bemporad in San Antonio to a criminal information charging her with one-count of false statements to a government agency.
According to court documents, from 2008 through 2009, Charpia was the co-owner of Sourcing Specialist LLC, a privately owned company that contracted with the United States government to provide services in Iraq. In September 2008, she contracted to provide a turn-key housing facility located outside Iraq’s International Zone to facilitate the introduction of multi-national firms desiring to develop business opportunities in Iraq. That same month, Charpia signed and submitted to the Department of Defense (DOD) Joint Contracting Command Iraq/Afghanistan, for payment through the contract, a false invoice in the amount of $1,270,075.40 purportedly for mobilization costs. She followed up with two invoices, one representing that she had paid $700,000 for the rental of two villas in Baghdad, and the other representing that she had paid $570,075.50 on the purchase of three armored vehicles from an Iraqi company. In October 2008, as a result of her false and fraudulent statements, DOD caused $1,270,075.50 to be wired to Charpia’s bank account. Charpia admitted that she fabricated both invoices and forged the signatures on the documents. She also admitted that she did not purchase any armored vehicles and paid only half the submitted cost for the villas.
At sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 15, 2012, Charpia faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the pecuniary gain or loss, and up to three years of supervised release. As part of her plea agreement, Charpia agreed to pay $920,000 plus interest in restitution to the United States.
This 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 by Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith A. Patton of the Western District of Texas. The case is being investigated by SIGIR, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the Major Procurement Fraud Unit of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.