News and Press Releases

Reserve Officer Steered Contracts to Companies in Which he had a Financial Interest

December 19, 2007

RICHARD S. O’CONNOR, 64, of Seattle, a retired Colonel in the Washington National Guard, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, to five years of probation, six months of home detention and $84,892 in restitution for taking Official Action in Matters in which he had a Personal Financial Interest. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess said he was not imposing prison time because he had to strike a balance between the seriousness of the crime and O’CONNOR’s personal circumstances. O’CONNOR has heart problems and other medical issues which the Judge said gave him pause about a prison sentence. Judge Burgess also noted O’CONNOR’s 36-year military career with multiple tours of duty in Vietnam and numerous decorations, including citations for bravery in combat.

O’CONNOR pleaded guilty August 8, 2007, admitting during 2001 and 2002, while employed by the National Guard he agreed to deals with representatives of outside vendors whereby he would be compensated for business those contractors got from the National Guard. The contractors supplied various on-line learning programs for the Washington National Guard. One contract was worth as much as $1 million to the vendor. O’CONNOR promoted the deal while still with the Guard and was initially paid more than $18,000. Additionally, in 2002, while still employed by the National Guard O’CONNOR negotiated a deal whereby the representative of another contractor would pay O’CONNOR a percentage of the profit obtained from a contract to provide a consultant to the National Guard. O’CONNOR received $66,700 under that scheme.

In a sentencing memorandum filed with the court, prosecutors argued that the “case involves a high-ranking military officer who abused the trust placed in him by the military and the nation in order to enrich himself.” The government further argued that “in the end Col. O’Connor took advantage of that trust in order to secure what in effect were secret sales commissions from contractors whose deals with the government had been supported by Col. O’Connor in his official capacity. These hidden side deals represented a gross conflict of interest that betrayed the public’s right to integrity in military procurement.”

The case was investigated by the Inspector General for the General Services Administration, which is the federal agency that oversees a large percentage of government purchases, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark Parrent.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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