New Orleans Man is Sentenced on Defense Procurement Fraud Charges
Charles R. Priestley, 48, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, pled guilty and was sentenced on January 23, 2012, for making a false, fictitious and fraudulent claim to the United States government, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today. The United States District Court in East St. Louis presided over the plea of guilty and sentenced Priestley to the serve 5 years of probation and to pay a fine of $4,000.00, a special assessment to the court of $100.00, and to pay restitution of $300,000.00 to the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM). Priestley was previously debarred from participation in federal contracts for six (6) years.
Priestley operated Hummingbird Aviation, a company in Louisiana. He entered into a contract with the USTRANSCOM, part of the U.S. Department of Defense, and responsible for national and international military transportation for the United States. USTRANSCOM’s headquarters and contracting office is located at Scott Air Force Base. The contract allowed Priestley to provide helicopter service in Afghanistan, effective October 1, 2007. The contract provided that the United States would pay Hummingbird for the services of each helicopter at $298,790 per month.
On December 12, 2007, Hummingbird sent a payroll summary to USTRANSCOM, which fraudulently requested reimbursement for the aircraft lease for October 1 through November 30, 2007, amounting to $300,000. At his plea, Priestley admitted that the claim for reimbursement was false in that Priestley had back-dated a contract with a third-party provider of helicopters which was provided to USTRANSCOM for payment for expenses not actually incurred. Priestley admitted that this claim resulted in the fraudulent payment of $300,000.00 by USTRANSCOM.
This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations and the Office of USTRANSCOM’s Fraud Counsel at Scott Air Force Base. The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Ranley R. Killian and Liam Coonan.