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Former Hill AFB official gets 2 years in contract scheme

Jan. 30, 2014 - 05:24PM   |  
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A former procurement manager at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, who gave confidential budget information to a military contracting company in exchange for more than $185,000 in payments and gifts was sentenced to two years in prison, the Justice Department announced this week.

Between 2008 and August 2011, Jose Mendez accepted cash and wire payments, a laptop and computer accessories from Sylvester and Maria Zugrav of Atlas International Trading Corporation. In turn, Mendez steered business to the Zugravs by disclosing budget and bid information, according to an affidavit in the case.

Atlas was one of a select number of vendors for the Air Force Foreign Material Acquisition Support Office, which purchased foreign military parts and materials on behalf of the U.S. service branches, court documents show.

The FBI began investigating the scheme in January 2011, the affidavit said. Mendez admitted to special agents in July of that year to providing the confidential information but denied getting anything in return. He said he only gave the information to vendors who delivered requests on time and did so to benefit the United States.

A subsequent search of Mendez’s home computer turned up documents discussing thousands of dollars in payments, including the purchase of a $21,000 vehicle, the affidavit said. Agents also discovered a spreadsheet listing dollars, dates and locations.

Mendez admitted to receiving payments when he was confronted with the information found on his computer. Atlas sent Mendez multiple $5,000 cash payments via FedEx and wired nearly $104,000 to a bank account Mendez set up in Mexico, according to the affidavit. Mendez traveled to Florida, Georgia and the Ukraine to collect in person another $13,600 in cash.

The Zugravs and Mendez tried to cover their tracks, creating email accounts and using code names, the court documents show. At one point, the Zugravs told Mendez the $5,000 withdrawals could look suspicious and asked him to set up the foreign bank account.

Mendez was offered $1.2 million in all, according to the indictment. He received more than $180,000, with promises for more payments if Atlas won future government contracts.

Mendez pleaded guilty in October 2011 to bribery and procurement fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery and procurement fraud.

The Zugravs pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme last February. Sylvester Zugrav, 70, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for conspiracy to commit bribery and procurement fraud, according to the Justice Department. Maria Zugrav, 67, was sentenced to two years probation for misprision of a felony for trying to cover up the scheme.

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