Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Judge Sentences Final Defendant In Air Force Base Fraud Case; Individuals, Businesses Ordered To Pay Back Millions

MACON— The defendant in the center of a scheme to award millions of dollars in military contracts in exchange for illegal kickbacks at Robins Air Force Base was sentenced in federal court Wednesday, announced Charles “Charlie” E. Peeler, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. The Honorable Marc Treadwell sentenced Mark Cundiff, 60, of Macon, to 36 months in prison followed by two years supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amounts of $110,050 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and $270,000 to the U.S. Treasury. Two co-defendants and businesses previously entered guilty pleas and were sentenced in this case. Co-defendant Raymond F. Williams of Canton, OH, was sentenced in Albany federal court on January 8, 2019 by the Honorable Leslie Gardner to 60 months in prison, 3 years supervised release and restitution in the amount of $870,000 to the U.S. Department of Defense on the charge of Conspiracy to Bribe a Public Official. In addition, two businesses owned by Mr. Williams, US Technology Corporation (UST) and US Technology Aerospace Engineering Corporation (USTAE) were ordered by Judge Gardner to pay $1,500,000 in fines plus $870,000 in restitution apiece on Money Laundering Conspiracy charges. Co-defendant John Christopher Reynolds of Macon, was sentenced in August 2018 by Judge Treadwell to 12 months and a day for Aiding and Abetting the Giving of a Gratuity to a Public Official. There is no parole in the federal system.

Mr. Cundiff was a long-term Department of Defense employee at Robins Air Force Base (RAFB), working from 1982 until his retirement in January 2014. He was responsible for technical engineering support to military aircraft maintenance operations, and part of his official duties was to prepare a Performance Work Statement (PWS) when RAFB was soliciting bidders for new contracts. A PWS is a document that describes the requirements necessary for a bidding company to meet the needs of the US Air Force on a particular job, and is in place to ensure fairness in the federal bidding process, where contracts can be worth tens of millions of dollars. Sometime in 2004 or 2005, Mr. Williams requested that Mr. Cundiff provide inside help with winning contracts. In exchange for cash payments, Mr. Cundiff wrote each PWS so that the contract requirements could only be met by Mr. Williams. Starting in 2011, Mr. Reynolds funneled payments to Mr. Cundiff from Mr. Williams, by submitting fake invoices to Mr. Williams’ company, UST. Mr. Reynolds was hired by UST to provide engineering support for $40,000 a month, but no work was involved in this sub-contract beyond a few small items. At the time, Mr. Cundiff was living in a home owned by Mr. Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds would take the monthly invoice payment from UST, subtract the rental money he used to pay down the mortgage on the property he owned, and give the remaining balance to Mr. Cundiff. In all, Mr. Cundiff would receive amounts of between $2,000 and $8,000 dollars in kickbacks monthly from when the scheme began in 2004 or 2005 until November 2013. Mr. Cundiff retired from RAFB in January 2014. During the course of the conspiracy, Mr. Williams directed payments from UST in the amount of $870,000 to pay bribes to Mr. Cundiff and to reward Mr. Reynolds and others for serving as intermediaries in the payment of brides to Mr. Cundiff. Mr. Williams received benefits from Mr. Cundiff’s efforts amounting to at least $14,450,000.

“Millions of dollars in federal contracts was directed to one company in exchange for cash bribes—this is not the American way,” said Charles “Charlie” Peeler, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “It is a gross injustice for all hard-working, rule-abiding people when a few individuals cheat the system for their benefit. It isn’t fair, and government fraud won’t be tolerated by this Office, especially when it impacts our military.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and Department of Defense/Defense Criminal Investigative Service.  Assistant United States Attorney Paul C. McCommon, III prosecuted the case for the United States.

Questions concerning this case can be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603 or Melissa Hodges, Public Affairs Director (Contractor), United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 765-2362.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

My Books Hidden Messages

The below list of movies and television series all have at least one thing in common, that being some sort of Plot Twist or something that was a surprise and not expected. Their genres may not be the same, however the writers presented a story that provided entertainment coupled with an unexpected answer or event within the stories that in some manner gave us a sense of closure, justice, revenge, or just a sense of relief for one of the characters.

In my books “Forgotten Soldiers” and “Till the Cows Come Home,” plus book projects in progress, my intent is to provide similar plot twist, surprise, and unexpected outcomes that provide the reader with a sort of satisfaction with the stories ending. Another intent is to insert in a subtle manner identifying a hidden message that draws attention to an injustice within our society, injustices that anger us and should not be ignored.

My intention is to entertain while drawing attention to either issues or events we should not forget, and social justice issues that should not be ignored due to political and social correctness.

I invite you to follow my website, social media platforms and my Amazon Page and watch for future project releases.

Three Individuals Sentenced to Prison for Their Roles in Bribery Schemes Involving VA Program for Disabled Military Veterans

            WASHINGTON – Two owners and an employee of for-profit, non-accredited schools were sentenced during the last two days for bribing a public official at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in exchange for the public official’s facilitation of over $2 million in payments that were supposed to be dedicated to providing vocational training for military veterans with service-connected disabilities.

            Albert Poawui, 41, of Laurel, Md., was the owner of Atius Technology Institute (“Atius”), a school purporting to specialize in information technology courses.  Sombo Kanneh, 29, of McLean, Va., was Poawui’s employee at Atius.  Michelle Stevens, 57, of Waldorf, Md., was the owner of Eelon Training Academy, a school purporting to specialize in digital media courses.

            Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia, Assistant Director in Charge Nancy McNamara of FBI’s Washington Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Kim Lampkins of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) Mid-Atlantic Field Office made the announcement.

            All three defendants were sentenced by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates of the District of  Columbia.  Poawui was sentenced to serve 70 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution to the VA.  Kanneh was sentenced to serve 20 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $113,227.30 in restitution to the VA and to forfeit $1.5 million.  Stevens was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $83,000 in restitution to the VA and to forfeit $83,000.

            James King, the VA official who all three defendants bribed, has pleaded guilty to bribery, wire fraud, and falsification of documents, and will be sentenced on Friday, Feb. 15.

            The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program is a VA program that provides disabled U.S. military veterans with education and employment-related services.  VR&E program counselors advise veterans under their supervision which schools to attend and facilitate payments to those schools for veterans’ tuition and necessary supplies.

            According to admissions made in connection with Poawui and Kanneh’s pleas, in or about August 2015, Poawui and King agreed that Poawui would pay King a seven percent cash kickback of all payments made by the VA to Atius.  In exchange, King steered VR&E program veterans to Atius regardless of the veterans’ educational needs or interests and notwithstanding their repeated complaints about the poor quality of education at Atius.

            Between August 2015 and December 2017, Poawui, King, and the scheme’s other participants caused the VA to pay Atius approximately $2,217,259.44.  Poawui paid King over $155,000 as part of the illicit bribery scheme.  These bribery payments were hand-delivered by Poawui or Kanneh to King or King’s assistant, who was a veteran enrolled in the VR&E program.  Kanneh admitted that she routinely moved money between Atius’s bank accounts to facilitate bribe payments to King.

            Poawui also admitted that he made numerous false representations to the VA to enhance the scheme’s profits.  For example, Poawui certified to the VA that veterans attending Atius were enrolled in up to 32 hours of class per week, when in fact he knew that Atius offered a maximum of six weekly class hours.  After the VA initiated an administrative audit of Atius, Poawui and King took steps to conceal the truth about earlier misrepresentations they had made to the VA.

            According to admissions made in connection with Stevens’ plea, she created Eelon Training Academy after learning about the VR&E program from King.  In or about September 2016, King facilitated the first tuition payment from the VA to Eelon.  Shortly after receiving this payment, King told Stevens that she should give him seven percent of the monies paid by the VA to Eelon.  King proceeded to steer veterans under his supervision to Eelon regardless of their resistance to attending Stevens’ school.

            Stevens admitted to later making two cash payments of $1,500 to King in furtherance of her scheme to bribe King in exchange for King sending veterans under his supervision to Eelon and facilitating the VA’s payments to Stevens.  In total, Stevens received approximately $83,000 from the VA for education that she purported to provide to veteran students.  Stevens submitted invoices to the VA amounting to no less than $300,000 for the tuition and equipment of seven students, but was not paid the balance of the invoice amount due to the VA’s ongoing investigation into Eelon following complaints by students about the poor quality of education.

            In an effort to procure the outstanding payments from the VA, Stevens made numerous fraudulent misrepresentations to the VA, and maintained fraudulent student files in the event of an audit by the VA.             For example, Stevens emailed to the VA an “attendance” sheet for eight students.  The attendance sheet was created by Stevens and included handwritten check marks purporting to represent the dates that the students attended class.  In fact, as Stevens well knew, the students had not attended class on many of those dates nor was class even held on many of those dates.

            Poawui, Kanneh, and Stevens’ sentences are the result of an ongoing investigation by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General.  Trial Attorney Simon J. Cataldo of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Misler of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case.