Businessman Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge For Conspiring to Take and Sell State Department Vehicles
Defendant Admits Sharing Proceeds with State Department Vehicles
WASHINGTON – The manager of an auto restoration and collision center pled guilty today to charges that he conspired with others to sell vehicles that were brought to the business by the U.S. Department of State, announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, Steve A. Linick, Inspector General for the U.S. Department of State, and Timothy R. Slater, Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Division of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
James Ratcliffe, 67, of Fairfax Station, Va., pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of conspiracy to commit theft of government property and wire fraud. The charge carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he faces a potential range of 18 to 24 months of incarceration and a fine of $4,000 to $40,000. The plea agreement calls for Ratcliffe to pay $416,020 in restitution and an equal amount in a forfeiture money judgment.
The Honorable Amit P. Mehta scheduled sentencing for May 3, 2017.
According to a statement of offense, signed by the defendant as well as the government, Ratcliffe is the manager of the Car Collision Center, located in Springfield, Va. He and the owner of the Collision Center, who is identified in court documents as “Person A,” also have a license to sell automobiles in Virginia under the name of Collector’s Auto Restoration.
Through the Car Collision Center, Ratcliffe and others performed legitimate work on vehicles for government agencies, including the U.S. Department of State. Vehicles that came to the Collision Center from the State Department were delivered by State Department employees. The Collision Center provided estimates for the work requested, and, if approved, employees of the Collision Center prepared work tickets, performed the work, and billed the State Department.
Apart from legitimate work for the State Department, Ratcliffe admitted in the statement of offense that he conspired with a State Department employee, identified in court documents as “Person B,” who worked in the Defensive Equipment and Armored Vehicle Division, to misappropriate and sell vehicles and other State Department property. This employee was responsible for the acquisition, repair, and maintenance of armored vehicles. “Person B” also was involved in record-keeping with respect to the State Department’s armored vehicles.
According to the statement of offense, on at least two occasions in 2011 and 2012, “Person B” caused truckloads of State Department tires and wheels to be delivered to the Collision Center. “Person B” told Ratcliffe that he could sell them and keep the proceeds. Ratcliffe kept the full proceeds of his sales, which amounted to at least $7,500.
Also, beginning in or before June 2011, and continuing through at least November 2013, “Person B” and Ratcliffe took a Hummer and 12 Chevrolet Suburbans from the State Department motor pool; these vehicles were unarmored. They agreed that Ratcliffe would sell the vehicles and split the proceeds with “Person B.” Ratcliffe typically sold the misappropriated vehicles for at or near market prices. The total sales price of the misappropriated vehicles was $408,520, according to the statement of offense. Ratcliffe and “Person A” kept the majority of these proceeds for their personal benefit and the remainder went to “Person B.” Additionally, in 2015, “Person B” provided Ratcliffe with two unarmored Suburbans that Ratcliffe kept at his place of business or home. The base price of these vehicles was $48,200 each, for a total of $96,400. The two vehicles were recovered during a law enforcement investigation of the criminal activities.
All told, the value of the property that Ratcliffe misappropriated through the schemes was at least $512,420.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Phillips, Inspector General Linick, and Special Agent in Charge Slater commended the work of those who are investigating the case from the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Inspector General, as well as the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also expressed appreciation for the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea L. Hertzfeld, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Vesna Harasic-Yaksic, and Paralegal Specialist Jessica Mundi. Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Marston, who is prosecuting the matter.