WASHINGTON - A former senior employee of a U.S. military contractor pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to pay $360,000 in bribes to U.S. Army contracting officials stationed at a U.S. military base in Kuwait, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.
According to court documents filed today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Dorothy Ellis, 53, of Texas City, Texas, was employed by former U.S. military contractor Terry Hall. As Hall’s most senior employee, Ellis’s responsibilities included serving as the liaison between Hall and U.S. Army contracting officials stationed at Camp Arifjan, a U.S. military base in Kuwait.
From the spring of 2004 through November 2007, Hall operated and had an interest in several companies, including Freedom Consulting and Catering Co. (FCC) and Total Government Allegiance (TGA). At various times during this period, these companies provided goods and services to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and its components based on a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) to deliver bottled water and a contract to construct a security fence in Kuwait and elsewhere.
A BPA is a type of contract by which the DoD agrees to pay a contractor a specified price for a particular good or service. Based on the BPA, the DoD orders the supplies on an as-needed basis. The contractor is then obligated to deliver the supplies ordered at the price agreed upon in the BPA. The term for such an order by the DoD is a “call.”
According to court documents, Hall obtained the calls made under the bottled water BPA and fence contract by bribing certain U.S. Army contracting officers, including former Majors James Momon and Christopher Murray. Hall, assisted by Ellis and Hall’s business partner, paid Momon approximately $330,000 and paid Murray approximately $30,000. In exchange for these bribe payments, from January 2006 through May 2006, Momon arranged for the DoD to pay Hall’s companies more than $6.4 million through the bottled water BPA, and Murray assisted in the award of the security fence contract.
Ellis admitted that she participated in the bribery scheme by providing Momon and Murray access to secret bank accounts established on their behalf in the Philippines, which enabled Hall and others to transfer bribe payments to them. Ellis also admitted that she obtained confidential Army contract pricing information from Momon that was designed to give Hall an unlawful advantage in the bidding process for an ice contract from the DoD. In exchange for her assistance in the bribery scheme, Ellis received a $100,000 “bonus” from Hall in August 2006.
The charge of bribery conspiracy carries a maximum prison sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine. Under the plea agreement, Ellis agreed to forfeit $360,000 to the government. Sentencing has been scheduled for Dec. 1, 2010, before U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner.
The case against Ellis arose out of an investigation into corruption at the Kuwait contracting office at Camp Arifjan, which has led to charges against 15 individuals, to date. Of those 15 defendants, 13 have pleaded guilty, with some already serving prison sentences. For example, on Dec. 2, 2009, former U.S. Army Major John Cockerham was sentenced to 210 months in prison and ordered to pay $9.6 million in restitution. On Aug. 13, 2009, Momon pleaded guilty to receiving approximately $1.6 million in bribes and agreed to pay $5.7 million in restitution. On Dec. 17, 2009, Murray was sentenced to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay $245,000 in restitution.
On Aug. 11, 2010, Wajdi Birjas, a former DoD contract employee, pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy in connection with his payment of tens of thousands of dollars worth of bribes to Army contracting officers, including Murray, Momon and a senior procurement non-commissioned officer. Birjas also pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy arising out of his participation in a scheme to transport $250,000 of Momon’s bribe proceeds from Kuwait to the United States. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2011.
On Feb. 18, 2010, Hall pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy and agreed to forfeit $15.7 million to the U.S. government in connection with his payment of more than $3 million in bribes to Cockerham, Momon, Murray and former U.S. Army Major Eddie Pressley. The case against Hall’s co-defendants, Eddie Pressley and his wife Eurica Pressley, is scheduled for trial Jan. 24, 2011, in Decatur, Ala.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Edward J. Loya, Jr. and Peter C. Sprung of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. The case is being investigated by special agents of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Army Criminal Investigation Command Division, the FBI and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
Today’s plea represents the Department of Justice’s commitment to protect U.S. taxpayers from procurement fraud through its creation of the National Procurement Fraud Task Force. The National Procurement Fraud Initiative announced in October 2006, is designed to promote early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The investigation is ongoing.