Former Army Corps Employee Pleads Guilty to Lying to Law Enforcement
A former employee of the United States Army Corps of Engineers pled guilty to making false statements to law enforcement agents.
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Colonel Andrew D. Kelly, Jr., Jacksonville District Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Cyndy A. Bruce, Special Agent in Charge, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Southeast Field Office, Manny Antonaras, Deputy Special Agent in Charge, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Southeast Office of Enforcement, Andres Castro, Special Agent in Charge, Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigations Division (EPA- CID), Atlanta Area Office, and Frank Robey, Director, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU), made the announcement.
Tracey Jordan Sellers, 49, of Duval County, pled guilty to an Information containing one count of making a false official statement to federal law enforcement agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). Sellers faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years and is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga on September 19, 2019, in Miami.
“Tracey Jordan Sellers’s conduct undermined the integrity of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan. “Together with our partner law enforcement agencies, we remain committed to defending the institutions of federal government.”
“We take this matter very seriously,” said Col. Andrew D. Kelly. “We have assisted the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal investigators throughout their investigation. The defendant is no longer employed with the Corps. Her actions are not representative of the Corps and its values. Such conduct is never tolerated.”
According to the criminal Information and Joint Factual Statement filed with the Court, Sellers was a civilian employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Jacksonville District. A biologist, Sellers coordinated and advised on environmental issues related to Army Corps projects. Part of her responsibilities included planning and coordinating environmental requirements related to Army Corps projects and reviewing products from environmental consulting companies.
Federal ethics laws and regulations prohibit federal employees from engaging in outside employment that conflicts with employees’ official duties. From 2014 through February 8, 2019, while employed with the Army Corps, Sellers violated these laws and regulations by engaging in outside employment with a consulting company despite being part of a team that oversaw that company’s work for the Army Corps in relation to large dredging projects in South Florida.
In secret from her colleagues and management at the Army Corps, Sellers accepted offers of part-time employment from the consulting company. In November 2014, in October 2018, and in January 2019, the consulting company offered Sellers part-time work on three different projects with the company. Sellers accepted the offers from the consulting company, provided them her resume, entered into an independent consulting contract with them, and performed work on the projects for them. In an interview occurring in February 2019, Sellers falsely and willfully misled federal agents about her outside involvement with the consulting company. One of those false statements comprises the offense in the criminal Information.
Sellers no longer works for the Army Corps.
“Sellers ignored her oath and instead pursued personal profit from the same contractor whose work she reviewed,” said Cyndy Bruce Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Southeast Field Office. “DCIS and its law enforcement partners are committed to strike against those who undermine and jeopardize the integrity of the DoD’s procurement process.”
“Ms. Sellers not only violated federal ethics laws but also the trust and confidence the U.S. Army places in our soldiers, civilian employees and contractors,” said Frank Robey, the director of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. “The work that our Army does on a daily basis is vital to the success and security of our nation. Anyone who violates that trust by committing criminal acts will be fully investigated by our agents and our fellow law enforcement professionals.”
“Federal employees who oversee the environmental compliance of government contractors must be free of any conflicts of interest,” said Andres Castro, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Florida. “This case shows that EPA and our federal partners are committed to protecting the integrity of federal contracts and safeguarding our nation’s natural resources.”
U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the DCIS, NOAA, EPA-CID, and the MPFU. U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan also thanked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its assistance. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Raich.