SALT LAKE CITY — A federal indictment was announced Wednesday against a Boston corporation and three men accused of bribing a military official to gain a $54 million contract in Afghanistan.
The military official not only received the bribes but solicited them as well, said U.S. Attorney for Utah David Barlow.
The 72-count indictment includes charges of bribing a public official, accepting of a bribe by a public official, money laundering and fraud. The investigation involves properties in St. George and accusations of hiding proceeds and transactions at a St. George credit union.
In 2007, the U.S. Army solicited bids for a U.S. contractor to supply and train Afghan troops. The pilot contract was "related to logistics and weapons maintenance support for Afghan commando units," according to the indictment.
Lt. Col. David Young, 49, with the U.S. Army, oversaw all special operations forces in Afghanistan, according to court records. Prosecutors allege that Young "fraudulently disclosed procurement information about the pilot contract, including bid, proposal and source selection information."
Young, along with Christopher Harris, 48, a civilian contractor in Afghanistan from Lake Havasu, Ariz.; Michael Taylor, 51, president of Boston-based American International Security Corporation; and AISC are each named in the indictment.
AISC won the $54 million contract after Young provided them with protected information about the bidding, including "the government's price estimate, source selection criteria, competing bid information, and other confidential procurement information," the indictment states.
From that $54 million, Harris was paid about $17.4 million by Taylor and AISC, according to court records, and Taylor received $1.7 million from AISC. Young is accused of instructing Harris to use $7.8 million of the money he was given to pay nominee entities and individuals controlled by Young.
"A 'nominee entity' is an entity typically used to hide and conceal illegal financial or other transactions for the benefit of an individual," according to court records.
Harris tried to hide his proceeds by structuring his transactions at America First Credit Union in St. George so he wouldn't be detected by the bank's warning mechanisms, the indictment states. The bank is required to report transactions in excess of $10,000. Harris is accused of trying to hide his dealings by making several deposits and withdrawals of $9,000 from May 2009 until February 2010.
"The scope, complexity and brazenness of this alleged fraud scheme are astounding," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, whose office was first tipped off to the case.
"If the allegations prove true, millions of dollars in U.S. government funds earmarked to help train and equip Afghan soldiers were used instead to indulge the defendants' appetites for wealth and opulent lifestyles, including investments in private planes, precious metals and real estate," he said.
Barlow declined to comment, however, on whether AISC delivered the services that were paid for or if there were any deficiencies in the services the government paid for. He would only say that wasn't part of the scope of their indictment.
Included in the indictment is a notice of intent by the government to seize property acquired due to the alleged illegal deal — including about 20 homes and other property in Utah, Florida, Arizona, New Hampshire and British Columbia; 225 American Eagle gold coins; 175 South African Krugerrand gold coins; a boat; a plane; a Hummer; and a Jaguar. Prosecutors also intend to seize more than $5.2 million from AISC bank accounts and more than $1 million from other accounts.
The government intends to seize St. George homes at 1149 W. 2320 South and 1424 W. Summer Poppy Drive, as well as a lot at 1200 W. 2320 South.
Harris was arrested in Salt Lake City in July. An initial hearing was held, and he was released pending his next court hearing. Summonses will be issued for the other defendants.
Young, Harris, Taylor and AISC are each indicted on charges of conspiracy, two counts of government procurement fraud, 16 counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering.
Harris, Taylor and AISC are also facing 13 counts of bribery of a public official. Harris is also indicted with seven counts of structuring financial transactions at the St. George credit union. Young was additionally indicted on 13 counts of acceptance of a bribe by a public official.
The bribery charges carry a maximum penalty of 15 years, the wire fraud counts each carry possible 30-year sentences, and money laundering up to 20 years.