U.S. Army Sergeant Major and Former Army Sergeant Plead Guilty to Bribery and Conspiracy Charges Related to Department of Defense Contract in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON - A current U.S. military service member and a former U.S. military service member pleaded guilty on Aug. 1, 2011, to bribery and conspiracy charges related to their roles in accepting $50,000 for the award of a Department of Defense contract in Afghanistan, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Florence Nakakuni.
Retired Army Sergeant Charles O. Finch, 45, of Mililani, Hawaii, and Sergeant Major Gary M. Canteen, 42, of Delaware, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi in the District of Hawaii, one day before their trial was scheduled to begin. Finch and Canteen each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and to defraud the United States, and Finch also pleaded guilty one count of bribery.
According to court documents, Finch and Canteen were deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in 2004 and 2005. Finch was assigned as the Noncommissioned Officer In Charge (NCOIC) of Operations Support. As NCOIC, Finch was responsible for line haul, or trucking, services into and out of Bagram involving the distribution of goods destined for American and coalition soldiers throughout Afghanistan. In addition, as NCOIC, Finch participated in evaluating, recommending and facilitating the award of line haul contracts. As part of the contract solicitation and award process, Finch assisted with the technical evaluation and rating of each prospective line haul contractor, which the contracting office relied upon prominently in making the award of line haul contracts.
Finch admitted that, in advance of the award of a line haul contract in 2004, he conspired with Canteen and others to accept a $50,000 bribe in return for exercising his influence to recommend and facilitate the award of the contract to AZ Corporation, a military contractor in Afghanistan. According to court documents, the bribe was paid on Sept. 27, 2004, via wire transfer into a bank account in the name of Da Spot Inc., a clothing and souvenir shop in Pearl City, Hawaii, owned by Canteen. Two weeks later, Finch authored a memorandum recommending that AZ receive a line haul contract, which was, in fact, awarded to AZ on Oct. 15, 2004. According to contract documents, AZ was ultimately paid approximately $20 million for services invoiced under this contract.
Canteen admitted that he provided his bank account information to receive the $50,000 payment from AZ Corporation. Canteen withdrew $25,000 of the funds for his personal use, and gave $24,000 to Finch in February 2005, after they returned home to Hawaii from Afghanistan.
Sentencing for Finch and Canteen is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2012. Finch faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or three times the value of the bribe on the bribery count, and up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on the conspiracy count. Canteen faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. 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 those amounts are greater than the statutory maximum fine.
The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Emily W. Allen of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Silverberg of the District of Hawaii. The cases are being investigated by the Army Criminal Investigations Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and members of the International Contract Corruption Task Force (ICCTF).