Forest Service Employee Arrested on Indictment Alleging He Accepted Bribes, Kickbacks for Approving No-Bid Auto Repair Work
RIVERSIDE, California – A United States Forest Service employee was arrested this morning on a federal grand jury indictment charging him with illegally directing nearly $900,000 in no-bid Forest Service vehicle repair and maintenance work to a San Bernardino County auto body repair shop that illicitly paid him more than $360,000 in bribes and kickbacks.
Francisco Isaias, 38, of San Bernardino, surrendered this morning to authorities and is expected to be arraigned this afternoon on seven counts of honest services wire fraud and 12 counts of conflict of interest.
A second defendant in this case – Joaquin Perez, 44, of Rancho Cucamonga, the operator of JP’s Collision and Auto Body Center, Inc., a Bloomington-based car repair shop – was arrested on February 25. Both Perez and JP’s Auto have been charged in this case with seven counts of honest services wire fraud. Federal prosecutors have issued a summons for JP’s Auto, the corporate defendant.
According to the indictment returned on Wednesday, the defendants executed a scheme to defraud the United States Forest Service of its right to the honest performance of Isaias’ duties as the agency’s fleet maintenance inspector. As part of his job duties, Isaias selected the businesses that would maintain and repair Forest Service vehicles, and approved specific expenditures related to the vehicles.
From June 2013 to March 2017, in exchange for bribes and kickbacks, Isaias allegedly provided favorable official action on the Forest Service’s behalf to Perez and JP’s Auto by steering Forest Service vehicle maintenance and repair work to them.
The defendants allegedly circumvented federal regulations requiring maintenance or repair services costing more than $2,500 to be arranged and bid under federal contracting procedures. In furtherance of the scheme, Isaias failed to create written work orders before awarding work to JP’s Auto, while Perez and JP’s Auto submitted multiple charges, each less than $2,500, to the Forest Service for auto repair and maintenance, according to the indictment.
From June 2014 to November 2016, the Forest Service paid JP’s Auto $898,528, with Isaias personally approving the vast majority of the payments, the indictment alleges. In exchange, Perez and JP’s Auto allegedly paid more than $360,000 in bribes and kickbacks to Isaias. From September 2015 to February 2017, Perez and JP’s Auto paid $49,866 to Isaias’ fictitious company, SIK Parts. Also, during a 10-week span in late 2016 and early 2017, Perez caused JP’s Auto to finance the purchase of $313,947 worth of tractor trucks and trailers on behalf of Isaias’ trucking business.
The Forest Service placed Isaias on suspension in 2017.
At his arraignment on February 25, Perez pleaded not guilty and was ordered to stand trial on April 20.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Each charge of honest services wire fraud carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, while each charge of conflict of interest carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.
This matter was investigated by the United States Forest Service and the FBI.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sean D. Peterson of the Riverside Branch Office.