News and Press Releases

Even After Guilty Plea Defendant Hid Stolen Government Property

June 30, 2010

STEVEN B. SMITH, 37, of Lake Arrowhead, California, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 42 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release for Wire Fraud and Theft of Honest Services. SMITH used his position as an FAA employee to steal government boats, planes, trucks and electronics from the federal government’s excess property referral system. SMITH’s older half-brother, Bradley A. Garner, 51, a Canadian citizen who resided in Palm Desert, California, was sentenced in February 2010 to 54 months in prison for his role in the scheme. At sentencing today U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle told SMITH, “This was a serious offense. You say that it was a lapse in judgment, but it was not just one; it was many conscious decisions, day after day, week after week, month after month, to take advantage of your position in the government.”

Garner was convicted following a three week trial in June 2009. According to records filed in the case and testimony at trial, STEVEN B. SMITH misused a government computer to place holds on items meant for transfer to other federal agencies. SMITH would place a claim on the property as a representative of the FAA. However, SMITH was not authorized to place any holds for the FAA. Garner then traveled the country picking up claimed goods worth thousands of dollars. Some of the items claimed include two 27' Boston Whaler boats, a Cessna airplane, a 50 foot yacht used in the Bahamas by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and a sailing yawl that had been used by the Naval ROTC program at the University of Washington. The men never obtained title showing the items were legally purchased and never registered the cars, boats or plane with licensing authorities. SMITH and Garner stored the items at their homes, an airport hanger and at rental properties belonging to their mother. Even after pleading guilty, SMITH refused to disclose where some of the property was stored, and in January 2010, was removing items from a rental home in the dark of night. Some of the items, such as the sailboat claimed from the Navy ROTC, were smuggled to Canada.

Garner and SMITH were first arrested in Southern California in November 2008. Agents conducted 10 search warrants in California, Canada, and in the Western District of Washington, and were able to recover much of the stolen property. The two men were indicted by the grand jury in February 2009.

Writing to the court in support of a 54 month sentence for SMITH, prosecutors noted, “ The scheme did more than monetary damage to the twenty-two federal agencies the defendants defrauded. Their scheme also did untold damage to the integrity of the Federal Government and the entire GSA property distribution system..... It is convenient for SMITH to console himself by thinking that they stole only junk, and did so from the richest and most powerful nation in the world. The truth is that they stole from a program designed to save taxpayers money, and from the stream of charity and beneficence that the United States directs to the less fortunate. In short, SMITH’s crimes had greater impact on taxpayers and the needy than they did on the United States government.”

The case was investigated by the General Services Administration Office of the Inspector General (GSA-OIG), the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (DOT-OIG), Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS), Army Criminal Investigation Division (Army CID) Defense Criminal Investigation Service (DCIS), the FBI, and the Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David Reese Jennings and Brian Werner.

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

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