Two U.S. military officials deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, two Department of Defense (DOD) contractors and a contracting company were charged late yesterday for their roles in an alleged bribery and money laundering scheme related to the award of a DOD trucking services contract in Afghanistan, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni for the District of Hawaii.
According to an indictment returned on June 8, 2010, in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, retired U.S. Army Sgt. Charles O. Finch, 44, of Hawaii, accepted a $50,000 bribe in the fall of 2004 to influence the award of a DOD trucking contract to AZ Corporation, an Afghan contracting company. The indictment alleges that the owners of AZ Corporation, brothers Assad John Ramin, 40, and Tahir Ramin, 32, both of Pennsylvania, offered the bribe to Finch. According to the indictment, the bribe was paid through the business account of Finch’s roommate at Bagram, 1st Sgt. Gary M. Canteen, 41, of Delaware, to disguise the nature and source of the payment. Canteen allegedly passed on a portion of the funds to Finch. According to the indictment, shortly after the money was delivered to Canteen, Finch recommended the award of the contract to AZ Corporation, which was awarded the contract.
Finch was arrested this morning in Hawaii and is expected to make his initial appearance later today in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.
Finch, John Ramin, Tahir Ramin and AZ Corporation are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, one count of bribery, one count of conspiracy to launder money and one count of money laundering. Canteen is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, one count of conspiracy to launder money and one count of money laundering.
Each individual faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or three times the value of the bribe for the bribery charge; a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the bribery conspiracy charge; and a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds for each of the money laundering and money laundering conspiracy charges. AZ Corporation faces a fine of up to $500,000 for the bribery and conspiracy charges and $500,000 for the money laundering and money laundering conspiracy charges. The maximum fine could be increased to twice the gain derived from the crimes or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crimes if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
John Ramin, Tahir Ramin and AZ Corporation were also charged in August 2008 and June 2009 in the Northern District of Illinois with bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery and mail fraud related to the procurement and delivery of concrete bunkers and barriers at Bagram Airfield. John Ramin, Tahir Ramin and AZ Corporation are scheduled to begin trial on these charges on Aug. 16, 2010. Three former military officials have pleaded guilty in the Northern District of Illinois to receiving bribes from the Ramins and AZ Corporation.
An indictment is merely an allegation and each defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Emily W. Allen of the Criminal and Antitrust Divisions and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Silverberg of the District of Hawaii. The case is being investigated by the Army Criminal Investigations Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and members of the National Procurement Fraud Task Force and the International Contract Corruption Task Force (ICCTF).
Today’s charges are an example of the Department of Justice’s commitment to protect U.S. taxpayers from procurement fraud through the National Procurement Fraud Task Force. The National Procurement Fraud Initiative, announced in October 2006, is designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The ICCTF is a joint law enforcement agency task force that seeks to detect, investigate and dismantle corruption and contract fraud resulting from U.S. Overseas Contingency Operations, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.