Former Federal Government Contract Officer Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribes
Defendant Worked at General Services Administration
WASHINGTON – Ronnie Simpkins, 67, a former government contract officer with the General Services Administration (GSA), pled guilty today to a federal bribery charge stemming from a scheme in which he accepted bribes from government contractors from August 2011 to August 2017.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, Timothy M. Dunham, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Washington Field Office, Criminal Division, and Eric D. Radwick, Acting Special Agent in Charge, National Capital Region, Office of Investigations.
Simpkins, of Lusby, Md., pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 15 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Simpkins faces a likely range of 18 to 24 months in prison and a fine of up to $75,000. He also has agreed to pay approximately $12,108 in a forfeiture money judgement. The Honorable Trevor N. McFadden scheduled sentencing for March 18, 2020.
According to the government’s evidence, from 1989 until May 2019, Simpkins was employed by the General Services Administration (“GSA”) as a Contract Specialist, informally known as a Contracting Officer, in procurement related positions, and between August 2013 and May 2019, he worked as a Contract Specialist assigned to GSA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. As a Contract Specialist, Simpkins was deemed to be a public official as defined by 18 U.S.C. Section 201(a)(1), and as a senior Contract Specialist.
From February 2010 to August 2017, Simpkins was assigned to a sub-division of the Federal Acquisition Service, which oversees the administration of GSA Schedule 70 contracts. “Schedules” are long-term government-wide contracts with commercial companies that provide access to commercial products and services at fair and reasonable prices to the government. “Schedule 70 contracts” provide IT solutions, services, and software to federal, state, and local customer agencies. GSA pre-negotiates the vendors’ pricing, terms, and conditions, to streamline the acquisition process while at the same time providing the best value to the end user agency.
Company A was a corporation owned by Person 1 and Person 2 and was located in Northern Virginia. At times during the relevant time-period, the company’s website included a link entitled: “GSA Schedule,” which emphasized for prospective customers that the company was awarded a GSA Scheduled contract. Advertising its GSA Schedule status was seen as benefiting Company A when it sought contracting opportunities with other federal agencies, as those agencies may have considered Company A’s GSA status and GSA pricing in fashioning their own contracts.
To maintain a GSA Schedule contract, Company A was required to have annual sales in excess of $25,000. GSA Schedule contracts are subject to cancellation if sales levels are not met. The annual sales requirement can be waived by the GSA Administrative Contracting Officer (“ACO”) for good cause after communicating with the contract vendor. If the contract vendor can demonstrate that it has potential, pending or unreported sales, the ACO normally will allow the contract to continue and withdraw the contract cancellation. In addition, contractors, such as Company A, are required to pay an Industrial Funding Fee (“IFF”) of 0.75% of all Schedule sales. The IFF is a fee to cover GSA’s cost of operating the Federal Supply Schedules program.
Simpkins administered and oversaw Company A’s GSA contracts for years, beginning on or about June 3, 2009, while Company A held a GSA contract, and continuing through August 2017 when GSA awarded Company A with a replacement contract. Simpkins’ duties included executing contract modifications and ensuring contract compliance. Company A maintained its GSA Schedule contract despite reporting no sales and not paying any IFFs since 2006.
Beginning in or around August 2011, and continuing through in or around August 2017, Simpkins received and agreed to receive from Person 1 and Person 2 things of value, including cash, meals, and furniture, in return for, when the opportunity arose, using his official position at GSA to help Company A through the performance of official action, aiding in the commission of a fraud on the United States, and acting or failing to act in violation of his official duty.
Simpkins met Person 1 and/or Person 2 over a dozen times at various restaurants in Northern Virginia, at Person 1 and Person 2’s residence, and other places, often outside of normal GSA business hours and on weekends. As Simpkins admitted to law enforcement, Person 1 and Person 2 paid for meals during their meetings at restaurants. During some of their meetings (Simpkins estimated 15 times), Simpkins accepted cash payments totaling approximately “thousands of dollars into the teens.” After receiving the cash, Simpkins often deposited some or all of it into his Navy Federal Credit Union account. During the relevant period, Simpkins deposited $9,750.00 in cash into that account, consisting of the cash payments he accepted from Person 1 and Person 2. In July of 2016, Simpkins also accepted furniture paid for by Person 1 and/or Person 2, valued at $2,358.91. Between the cash payments and furniture, not including meals paid for by Person 1 and/or Person 2, Simpkins admits to accepting at least $12,108.91 in things of value from Person 1 and Person 2.
In exchange for these things of value, oftentimes soon before or after the meetings with Person 1 and Person 2, Simpkins took official action and/or provided improper assistance to benefit Company A’s GSA Schedule contracts. Specifically, Simpkins recommended and signed Company A’s contracts with GSA, even though Company A failed to meet program requirements; willfully neglected to notify GSA, as he was obligated to do, when Company A’s contract under his supervision no longer met program requirements; and advised Company A about ways to avoid contract cancellation despite failing to meet GSA’s program requirements.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Liu, Special Agent in Charge Dunham, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Radwick, commended the work performed by those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office and GSA Office of Inspector General. They acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Amanda Rohde and Quiana Dunn-Gordon, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Simmonds, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham, who is prosecuting the case.