A federal grand jury has indicted a U.S. Army colonel who supervised military sales to El Salvador on charges of taking $70,000 in bribes and a $4,722 watch from the head of an armaments company.
Col. Juan Lopez de la Cruz, who stationed at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador between 1982 and 1984, was named in a seven-count indictment charging conspiracy, bribery, making false statements and aiding and abetting the filing of false claims.The indictment, returned Thursday by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., accused Lopez of conspiring with Dennis J. Reese, president of Springfield Armory, Inc., to defraud the foreign military sales program operated by the Pentagon.
Lopez is accused of soliciting and taking bribes totaling $70,000 from Reese in return for helping Springfield Armory complete the sale of $3.7 million worth of firearms to the Salvadoran government.
Efforts to reach Lopez for comment on the charges were unsuccessful.
As an advisor to the Salvadoran Military Group, Lopez recommended to the Salvadoran government what types of weapons and supplies to purchase from U.S. manufacturers under the program.
After they were introduced in 1983, Lopez told Reese that he was in a position to influence the type of weapons the Salvadorans would purchase and could help get U.S. certification to complete the transactions, the indictment said.
Reese, who pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy and filing false statements, also bought Lopez a $4,722 Rolex watch at the colonel's request.
In return for the bribes, Lopez is accused of signing documents falsely stating that commissions were paid on the weapon sales in according with regulations of the program.
He is also accused of aiding and abetting Reese's filing with the government of false claims to be reimbursed $94,600 for sales commissions that were never actually paid.
According to the indictment, Lopez and Reese arranged for false commissions to be paid to two Salvadorans they designated as agents.
Lopez told Reese to make out checks to the Salvadorans, who cashed them and returned the money to Reese - minus their fee.
If found guilty of all seven counts, Lopez could be sentenced up to 15 years for each of the two bribery charges and five years for each of the five remaining counts.
The bribery charges together would carry a fine of $210,000 while the other charges carry fines of $250,000 apiece.