Three sentenced in MCLB bribery case

ALBANY, Ga. -- A former employee at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, along with two local businessmen, were sentenced Thursday for their roles in a bribery scheme related to the awarding of contracts for machine products. The awards resulted in approximately $907,000 in fraudulent overcharges to the U.S Marines, according U.S. Justice Department officials.

Michelle Rodriguez, 32; Thomas J. Cole, 43, and Fredrick W. Simon, 55, all of Albany, were sentenced by Judge W. Louis Sands of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

Rodriguez received a sentence of 70 months in prison and was ordered to pay $161,000 in restitution. Cole was sentenced to 46 months in prison and ordered to pay $209,000 in restitution, and Simon was sentenced to 32 months in prison and ordered to pay $74,500 in restitution. Each is also subject to a $907,000 forfeiture order and three years of supervised release.

During her guilty plea in February, Rodriguez, a supply technician at Maintenance Center Albany, admitted to participating in a scheme to award contracts for machine products to "Company A" and "Company B," companies operated by Cole and Simon, court officials said. According to the Justice Department, Cole and Simon pleaded guilty to bribery changes related to the same scheme in January 2013 and cooperated with the government's criminal investigation.

The MCA is responsible for rebuilding and repairing ground support equipment, much of which has been utilized in military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other parts of the world.

To accomplish the scheme, Rodriguez is said to have transmitted bid solicitations to Simon via facsimile or email, then followed that communication with a text message specifying how much Company A should bid. Simon, on Company A's behalf, and with Cole's knowledge, bid the amount specified by Rodriguez on each order -- normally in excess of fair market value. Rodriguez was then paid $75 in cash for each order awarded to Simon and Cole during the previous week.

According to officials, during the relevant period Rodriguez awarded Cole's and Simon's companies nearly 1,300 machine product orders, all of which were in exchange for bribes paid to Rodriguez.

According to the Justice Department, court records state that Rodriquez received approximately $161,000 in bribes during the nearly two-year scheme, while Cole and Simon personally received $209,000 and $74,500, respectively.

The arrests of Rodriguez, Cole and Simon were the results of a 19-month joint investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, the Department of Defense Criminal Investigation Service, the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Georgia, the Public Integrity Section of the United States Department of Justice and the Dougherty County District Attorney's Office, according to Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards.

According to Edwards, in November 2011, the Naval Criminal Investigation Service requested assistance from his office to conduct and support a financial investigation of the suspects and of suspected criminal acts within the jurisdiction of Dougherty County.

"This office will not tolerate the misuse of this facility for illegal monetary gain and is always ready to support any investigation to detect, prevent and prosecute these types of crimes," Edwards said.

Edwards said that his office has provided financial information and criminal analysis in support of the investigation, which involved gathering and analyzing more than 30,000 pages of financial and government records.