Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Former Commerce Employee Indicted on Bribery Charges

A former Commerce Department employee has been indicted on a conspiracy to pay and receive bribes.

Back in 2006, the computer systems at a Commerce Department agency were infected by a computer virus. The infection required Commerce to shut down internet access to many of its computers for an extended period of time and to construct a new computer network that had not been infected by the virus.

Some of the files on the old infected system were still needed so management decided that a number of files for each employee would be migrated from the old to the new computer network. This project required that the migrated files be free of any viruses or malicious code.

Mr Conrad was designated the project manager to oversee the data migration project. In his role as project manager, Mr. Conrad had the ability to control, either directly or indirectly by exerting pressure on or providing advice to other public officials, the design of the project, whether to hire an outside contractor or subcontractor to perform the work, which contractor or subcontractor to hire, whether to continue to provide that contractor or subcontractor additional work to perform as part of the data migration project, and whether to allocate funding to pay for data migration work. In short, Mr. Conrad had a lot of power and authority to decide on how to spend Government funds.

Mr. Conrad found a guy who owned a couple of companies who was willing to pay some money (and give other things having monetary value) in exchange for some work on the data migration project. And this was no small pocket change. It involved hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and extensive renovation of Mr. Conrad's personal residence.

To conceal the bribes, Mr. Conrad himself set up front companies to generate fictitious invoices for such items as "support services" or "engineering services". Then, Mr. Conrad, as a Government employee, approved the fictitious invoices created by his own company.

Things got more sloppy. Mr. Conrad forced the contractor to hire several independent contractor to perform the data migration work, several of whom had no formal computer-related training or experience. When complaints arose over the poor quality of work being performed under the contract, Mr. Conrad concealed those complaints and failed to forward them up the chain.

The Government is attempting to recover $1.08 million in this case.

The DoJ press release covering this indictment can be found here.

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