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Former U.S Army Contractor Pleads Guilty to Bribery
Court Feed News | 2006/12/07 17:34

WASHINGTON – A former Director of Contracting for the U.S. Army has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for awarding U.S. Army contracts at an Army recreational facility in Germany and to filing false federal income tax returns, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher for the Criminal Division announced today.

Steven G. Potoski, 46, of Shriesheim, Germany, a former civilian employee of the U.S. Army, pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with one count of bribery and three counts of filing false tax returns in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip before Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein.

According to the information filed, between August 1998 and July 2005, Potoski served as Director of Contracting for the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC Europe), in Garmisch, Germany. The Department of the Army serves as the executive agent for the AFRC Europe and operates it on behalf of the Department of Defense. Patrons at the AFRC Europe include active duty U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While serving as Director of Contracting, Potoski accepted bribes from contractors and subcontractors in exchange for contract awards related to work at the AFRC Europe. To fund and conceal the bribes, the contractors and subcontractors agreed with Potoski to fraudulently inflate the price of the contracts and to submit the inflated contracts to Potoski for approval. In some instances, the contractors and subcontractors would pay Potoski, and others at Potoski’s direction, the difference between the inflated and actual contract price. In other instances, the contractors and subcontractors would split with Potoski the difference between the actual and the inflated price of the contract. In all, Potoski accepted over $350,000 in bribes from 15 contractors or subcontractors – two American contractors, 12 German contractors, and one British contractor. Potoski also accepted bribes from defense contractors in the form of home renovations, automobile maintenance, airline tickets, hotel rooms and furniture, among other things.

Potoski faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the bribery count and a maximum of three years in prison and $100,000 fine for each count of filing false tax returns.   The case was investigated by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division Command and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations Division. It is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Steve A. Linick and Trial Attorney Suzanne R. Clement of the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division, with assistance from Allen Bode, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of New York.

This case is part of the National Procurement Fraud Initiative that was announced by Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty in October 2006, which is designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in contracting activity for national security and other government programs. As part of this initiative, the Deputy Attorney General has created the National Procurement Fraud Task Force, which is chaired by Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher, and which includes U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community, and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies.



Sailor faces life for selling laptop secrets
Court Feed News | 2006/12/04 18:43

A sailor accused of stealing a Navy laptop computer and peddling its classified contents to an undisclosed foreign government pleaded guilty Monday to espionage, desertion and other charges.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Ariel J. Weinmann, 22, of Salem, Oregon, faces a sentence of life in prison without parole, a dishonorable discharge from the Navy and forfeiture of all pay.

Under a plea agreement, Weinmann pleaded guilty to one count each of espionage, desertion, failing to properly safeguard and store classified information, copying classified information, communicating classified information to a person not entitled to receive it, and stealing and destroying a government computer.

Weinmann pleaded guilty to trying to transmit classified information related to national defense to a representative of a foreign government on October 19, 2005 while he was in or near Vienna, Austria.

He pleaded not guilty to two additional espionage counts, one accusing him of giving classified information to an agent of a foreign government in March of 2005 in Bahrain and another accusing him of trying to deliver confidential information on March 19, 2006 in Mexico City.

Weinmann told the judge, who had yet to accept the plea, that he deserted the Navy in July 2005 because the service did not meet his expectations.

"I had a very idealized view, basically what amounted to a World War II Navy," Weinmann told the judge.

Weinmann, a fire control technician, had been stationed on the Connecticut-based submarine USS Albuquerque.

He said he did not report for duty aboard his submarine on July 3, 2005. He moved to Austria and never planned to come back to the United States, but changed his mind and was arrested in March at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Weinmann told the judge he believed his actions could hurt morale and security.

"I believe if it fell into the wrong hand, sir, the information could be detrimental to the United States," Weinmann said.

He said he made copies of classified material on a laptop computer, which he brought with him to Austria. He said he printed one document and copied other information onto CDs and said he had unclassified, classified and secret information sitting on a table in his apartment in Austria.

The military has not said what it believes Weinmann might have sought in exchange for the information.



New York Times seeks dismissal of anthrax libel lawsuit
Court Feed News | 2006/12/02 20:48

The New York Times has asked US District Judge Claude M. Hilton to dismiss a libel lawsuit brought by Dr. Stephen J. Hatfill, a former Army germ-warfare researcher who was named a "person of interest" by the FBI in its investigations of anthrax mailings shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Hatfill sued the Times for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress after the newspaper published a story stating that the government's decision not to further pursue Hatfill as a suspect was the result of "poor investigation." The newspaper moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that as a public speaker on bioterror, Hatfill is a public figure and therefore must prove a higher standard of defamation. The "public figure" must prove that the defamatory actions were taken with "actual malice", a standard which the Times motion contends Hatfill has failed to meet.

Hatfill's suit against the Times and columnist Nichols Kristoff was initially dismissed by a trial court, who ruled the columns were an ongoing report about a government investigation, not libel. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed, ruling that a jury should decide that issue. In March, the Supreme Court refused to grant certiorari in the case. Hatfill has also sued the government for related claims.



Saddam rejects mass grave testimony
Court Feed News | 2006/12/01 17:17

Saddam Hussein on Thursday rejected forensic evidence of mass graves presented by US experts in his genocide trial for the "Anfal" campaigns against ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq between 1987 and 1988. Hussein said that pictures of the graves are "irrelevant to the Anfal case" and that he "refutes all the testimonies submitted by the Americans" in the Anfal case, but expressed willingness to accept evidence offered by coalition countries other than the United States. Also on Thursday, Chief Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa admitted testimony of Michael Trimble, an American forensics expert with the US Army Corps of Engineers. Trimble offered an account of his discovery of corpses of hundreds of Kurdish women and children in three mass graves.

On Tuesday, Khalifa rejected an attempt by Hussein to bar testimony by American forensics expert Clyde Snow after Hussein demanded a neutral witness from a country that was not involved in the 2003 Iraq invasion. Hussein was sentenced to death earlier this month for crimes against humanity  committed in the Iraqi town of Dujail. An appeals panel is expected to rule on the verdict and sentence by mid-January 2007. Prosecutors hope to complete the Anfal trial before Hussein's execution. The Anfal trial has now been adjourned until Monday.



Las Vegas Court Blocks Tax Preparer’s Alleged Scheme
Court Feed News | 2006/11/30 20:34

WASHINGTON – Lynn Lakers, a Boulder City, Nev., tax-return preparer, has been permanently barred in connection with an alleged offshore-trust tax scam, the Justice Department announced today. It is alleged that Lakers, participating with three others, prepared false tax returns for phony trusts sold by her fellow defendants. She consented to the injunction order. According to the complaint, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates that this tax fraud scheme resulted in at least $31 million in lost revenue to the federal Treasury.

The other two defendants who consented to a permanent injunction earlier this year are Daniel Young of Las Vegas, who allegedly created phony domestic and foreign trusts to move customers’ assets from the United States to offshore banks located in the West Indies, and Stephen Nestor of Boise, Idaho, a former IRS revenue officer who allegedly signed false tax returns on behalf of customers’ bogus trusts. The case remains pending against a fourth defendant, Reinhold Sommerstedt.

Judge Brian E. Sandoval of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada entered injunctions against Nestor and Young in May 2006 and against Lakers on Nov. 20th. The injunctions prevent the three individuals from promoting the alleged tax-fraud scheme or preparing tax returns based on it. They must also give the government a list of their customers’ names, addresses, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and Social Security numbers. Nestor and Young have already complied with this portion of the injunction order.

According to the government’s complaint, the scheme allegedly helped customers hide their income from the IRS in Caribbean bank accounts. The defendants’ customers allegedly used phony loans and gifts to repatriate their money while concealing it from the IRS. Customers allegedly paid as much as $14,500 to participate in the scheme.



Judge rules US currency discriminates against blind
Court Feed News | 2006/11/29 22:45

In a Tuesday ruling, Judge James Robertson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia declared that "the Treasury Department’s failure to design and issue paper currency that is readily distinguishable to blind and visually impaired individuals violates section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act." Section 504 provides that no disabled person shall be "subjected to discrimination . . . under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency." In support of its decision, the court noted that over half of all countries that print their currency vary its size or texture to aid the blind. The court rejected the government's arguments that the change would be cost prohibitive, increase counterfeiting, and disrupt international recognition of US currency.

Robertson wrote:

Plaintiffs have demonstrated that they lack meaningful access to US currency. They have put forth several potential accommodations that are reasonable on their face. The government has not sustained its burden of showing that any of them would be unduly burdensome to implement... I will grant plaintiffs’ prayer for a declaratory judgment.

The American Council of the Blind filed the action four years ago. Under 28 USC s.1292(b), the government has ten days to appeal the ruling.



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