Former Defense Department Official Arrested on Federal Charges of Taking Cash to Aid Contractor’s Request for $6.4 Million Payment
LOS ANGELES – Federal authorities have arrested a former Department of Defense civilian official on charges that he took $34,000 in illegal cash payments from a private contractor to support the contractor’s effort to obtain $6.4 million from the government in connection with construction projects on a Navy base in the African nation of Djibouti, the Justice Department announced today.
Nizar Farhat, 63, of Palm Desert, who was a former construction manager based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, appeared this morning in United States District Court in Charleston, South Carolina, where a judge set his bond at $75,000. Farhat was arrested on Friday by FBI agents in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, where he has been staying in recent months.
Farhat is charged in a two-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on December 4 that charges him with being a public official receiving an illegal gratuity and being a public official receiving compensation from a private party for government services.
In 2014 and 2015, Farhat was on assigned temporary duty at the United States Navy Base Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, where he oversaw a private company’s $15 million contract to construct an aircraft hangar and a telecommunications facility. After the projects were completed, the company submitted to the Defense Department Requests for Equitable Adjustment (REAs) that sought $6.43 million in additional payments.
The indictment alleges that Farhat accepted $20,000 in cash from the company for performing official acts, specifically recommending that the Navy certify completion of the construction projects and pay the additional $6.43 million the company requested in the REAs. The indictment also alleges that Farhat took another $14,000 in cash from the company as compensation for advising the company and drafting the REAs submitted to the Defense Department.
The vast majority of the REAs remain under review by the Defense Department.
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.
If convicted of both charges, Farhat would face a statutory maximum sentence of seven years in federal prison.
This matter was investigated by the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David T. Ryan of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.