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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Wisconsin

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 20, 2017

Former Fire Chief of the U.S. Air Force Sentenced to Federal Prison for Procurement Violations and Wire Fraud

Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on April 19, 2017, James E. Podolske Jr. (age: 59) of Panama City, Florida, was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine for violations of Title 18 United States Code 1343, wire fraud, and the Procurement Integrity Act contrary to Title 41 United States Code, Section 2102(a). In addition to the prison term and fine, Podolske was ordered to pay almost $50,000 in restitution to the charities from whom he stole.

 

Pursuant to the terms of a plea agreement, Podolske Jr. acknowledged that while an official with the U.S. Air Force, he knowingly disclosed defense department contract bid information to give a competitive advantage to a corporate defense contractor.

 

Podolske Jr. further acknowledged that between 2009 and 2013, he used his position as Chief of Air Force Fire Services to defraud approximately 25 business entities or individuals out of tens of thousands of dollars per year intended for charity. Podolske Jr. organized an awards banquet and “charity” golf outing to coincide with a conference sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Podolske Jr. admitted that he actively solicited donations for his golf outing from contractors and subcontractors who sought to do business with the Air Force and Department of Defense, including several in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Some of the donations were forwarded to charities as intended, many donations, however, were deposited in Podolske Jr.’s personal bank account. He acknowledged using these charitable donations for his personal expenses, including to pay off credit card debt, pay for vacations, and for gambling at Gulf Shore casinos.

 

Chief District Judge William C. Griesbach described Podolske’s crimes as “as a very serious breach” of the public trust placed in Podolske as the Air Force Fire Chief and as a government employee. He noted, however, that no one but Podolske was responsible for his “tragic downfall.” Judge Griesbach questioned why a high-level civilian employee in the federal government who was well compensated felt the need to steal from the charities over so many years.

 

This case was investigated by the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Criminal Investigation Service, and the Naval Criminal Investigation Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel R. Humble.

 

 

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For further information contact:

Public Information Officer Dean Puschnig (414) 297-1700

Updated April 20, 2017