Prosecutor: Boston military contractor tried to derail Utah 'cowpokes' bribery probe

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20 2012 4:42 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A Boston man not only bribed an Army officer to secure a lucrative military training contract in Afghanistan but promised millions of dollars to an FBI agent to derail "cowpokes" in Utah from investigating him, federal prosecutors say.

Citing a series of emails and texts, prosecutors allege Michael Taylor enlisted an unidentified 20-year veteran FBI agent to help him "crush and blow the doors off" a criminal probe involving the $54 million contract.

"If they don't put me in jail, I'll make you filthy, stinkin' rich," federal prosecutor Kevin Driscoll said, quoting a message from Taylor, the man the agent called "Captain America."

Taylor, owner of Boston-based American International Security Corp., is among three men charged in a 72-count indictment with bribing a public official, accepting a bribe as a public official, money laundering and fraud. Army Lt. Col. David Young, of Tampa, Fla., and Christopher Harris, of St. George, are also named in the indictment.

All three men served in the U.S. Army Special Forces, and Taylor and Young were Green Berets.

Taylor appeared in U.S. District Court on Thursday to determine whether he should remain in custody at the Tooele County Jail pending a trial scheduled for Nov. 26 in Salt Lake City. Defense attorneys have filed a motion to move the case Massachusetts.

Prosecutors' allegations have the makings of a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller.

"The difference here for me is the international scope of this whole case," U.S. Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells said during the proceedings. "It's not the run-of-the-mill matter."

Driscoll argued Taylor would continue his attempt to obstruct justice if released. He also said Taylor applied for citizenship in Lebanon, where his wife is from and his son attends school. The U.S. and Lebanon do not have an extradition treaty.

Taylor's attorney, Steven Brooks, disputed Driscoll's assertions, saying Taylor, 51, is a good husband and father of three children and a charitable man.

"The government is orchestrating to make this as difficult for Mr. Taylor as possible," Brooks told the judge.

Brooks, who practices in Boston, said keeping Taylor in Utah will be harmful to his defense in the case involving tens of thousands of documents.

"I need my client. My client needs his lawyer," the attorney said.

Driscoll said Taylor has engaged in a "brazen" yearlong scheme to frustrate the criminal investigation. He has shown disdain for federal investigators and prosecutors, calling them "cowpokes" in one email to the FBI agent. The two knew each other through the agent's side job at Taylor's security firm.

As late as Tuesday, Driscoll said, the agent was trying to clear Taylor so he could deliver on his promise of millions of dollars. The FBI suspended the agent, but he has not been arrested, court officials said.

Brooks argued if anyone can interfere with the investigation at this point it's the agent, not Taylor.

"How can obstruction continue when everyone knows what's going on?" he asked.

Though Taylor travels extensively to the Middle East and Asia for his business, Brook said, he's not a risk to flee. In addition, federal investigators have effectively shut down his company, costing him security contracts with Logan International Airport in Boston, among others.

"He's a great father. He would never leave this country and leave his kids. He has no way of making money but American International," Brooks said.

He also said Taylor built a football field for his son's school and sent money to a needy family in the Philippines.

The judge wasn't persuaded. Wells noted Taylor's ties to Lebanon and his "international network of travel and associates" among reasons to keep him incarcerated.

Young, who is not in custody, also appeared before Wells on Thursday for a detention hearing. He remains free, but Wells required him to post a $7,500 cash bond and surrender his passport.

Young, 49, as a "public official" representing the Army, not only received the bribes but solicited them as well, according to federal prosecutors.

Young and Taylor pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this week.

Harris, 48, was conditionally released and is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 23. He worked as the American International "country manager" in Afghanistan under the contract. 

Court records say it was Harris’ banking habits in St. George that opened the case for federal investigators three years ago.

In 2007, the 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.

Young 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."

American International won the contract after Young provided it 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.

Harris was paid about $17.4 million by Taylor and American International, according to court records, and Taylor received $1.7 million. 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.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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