US Army Sergeant Major and Former Sergeant Sentenced to Prison for Bribery Conspiracy at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan
WASHINGTON – A former sergeant and a sergeant major in the U.S. Army, who were deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, were sentenced to 51 months and 31 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in a bribery scheme involving the award of a Department of Defense (DOD) trucking contract, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced.
Former Sergeant Charles O. Finch, 45, of Milalani, Hawaii, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi in the District of Hawaii to 51 months in prison and three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution to the DOD. Sergeant Major Gary Canteen, 42, of Delaware, was sentenced today by Judge Kobayashi in the District of Hawaii to 31 months in prison and three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Defense.
In August 2011, on the day they were scheduled to begin trial, Finch and Canteen pleaded guilty for their roles in conspiring to receive a $50,000 bribe from a military contractor in return for the award of a DOD trucking contract. Finch pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one count of bribery and Canteen pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.
According to court documents, Finch and Canteen were deployed to Bagram Airfield from January 2004 until January 2005. Both served on the Army’s 725th Logistical Task Force. Finch was responsible for coordinating trucking or “line haul” services to ensure the distribution of all goods destined for U.S. and coalition soldiers throughout Afghanistan. Finch served under Canteen’s command. Finch also participated in evaluating, recommending and facilitating the award of line haul contracts to various military contractors.
According to court documents, in advance of the award of line haul contracts in October 2004, Canteen and Finch agreed to accept a $50,000 bribe from military contractors John and Tahir Ramin and their company, AZ Corporation, in return for Finch’s recommendation and facilitation of the award of a line haul contract to AZ.
On Sept. 27, 2004, $50,000 was sent by designees of the Ramins via wire transfer into a bank account in the name of Da Spot Inc., a t-shirt and souvenir shop in Pearl City, Hawaii, owned by Canteen. Upon receipt of the money, on Oct. 12, 2004, Finch authored a memorandum recommending that AZ receive a line haul contract and the contract was awarded to AZ on Oct. 15, 2004. According to contract documents, the Ramins and AZ ultimately were paid nearly $20 million for services invoiced under this contract.
After the money was received into the Da Spot account, Canteen withdrew his portion in cash and transferred the remainder via bank check to Finch.
As part of his plea agreement, Finch admitted that in addition to the $50,000 bribe from the Ramins and AZ, he also accepted at least $150,000 in additional bribe money from the Ramins and other line haul contractors at Bagram Airfield.
Canteen was the 12th defendant sentenced in this investigation. Major Christopher West, who was in charge of base operations at Bagram during the time that Finch and Canteen were deployed there, was sentenced to 60 months in prison for receiving bribes from military contractors. West’s co-defendants, Robert Moore and Patrick Boyd, were sentenced to 15 months and 40 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in the bribery scheme. Sergeant Sheryl Ayeni was also sentenced to one year in prison for the receipt of $30,000 in return for her official acts as a vendor pay agent at Bagram during this time. Also arising from this investigation, John Mihalczo was sentenced to 15 months in prison for accepting approximately $115,000 in bribes at Bagram between 2003 and 2004.
These cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Mark W. Pletcher of the Fraud Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. The cases were investigated by the Department of the Army, Criminal Investigations Division; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; and the Department of the Air Force, Office of Special Investigations. Assistance was provided by the Office of International Affairs in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.