ALBANY — Three Southwest Georgia men have been indicted in federal court for their alleged participation in fraud and corruption schemes at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, which the U.S. Department of Justice says resulted in a loss of millions of dollars to the federal government. The indictment was unsealed Wednesday in the Middle District of Georgia.
According to a news release issued by the DOJ, Christopher Whitman, 48, a transportation broker and co-owner of United Industrial of Georgia Inc. (ULOC), an Albany-based trucking company, was indicted on 43 counts of money, property and honest services wire fraud, five counts of bribery and one count of theft of government property.
Shawn McCarty, 36, of Albany and a former employee at the MCLB-Albany, was charged with 30 counts of money, property and honest services wire fraud and one count of bribery.
Bradford Newell, 43, of Sylvester, also a former employee at MCLB-Albany, was charged with 13 counts of money, property and honest services wire fraud, one count of bribery, and one count of theft of government property.
The indictment alleges that Whitman paid nearly $1 million in bribes to Mitchell Potts, the former traffic officer supervisor for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) at MCLB-Albany, Jeff Philpot, the former lead transportation assistant in the traffic office and McCarty, another transportation assistant in the traffic office, to obtain commercial trucking business from the DLA.
The indictment alleges that Potts, Philpot and McCarty used their official positions to defraud the government and benefit the ULOC by helping ULOC obtain transportation contracts loaded with unnecessary premium-priced requirements — including expedited service; removable goose neck trailers, which do not require a loading dock and are therefore more expensive than standard trailers; and exclusive use, which requires that freight be shipped separately from other equipment, even if it that results in a truck not being filled to capacity. Justice Department officials state that the actions of Potts, Philpot and McCarty resulted in illegal profits to ULOC amounting to more than $20 million over four years.
In addition, the indictment accuses Whitman of orchestrating a scheme to steal and sell surplus equipment worth more than $1 million from MCLB-Albany. Officials say Whitman paid approximately $200,000 in bribes to people in high positions who assisted him in stealing base equipment including bulldozers, cranes and front-end loaders.
DOJ officals say that, if convicted, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, 15 years in prison for each bribery count, and up to 10 years for each count of theft. In addition, each charged count carries a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain, officials say.
Separate and prior to the Whitman, McCarty, Newell indictments, one former ULOC employee and three DLA officials pleaded guilty in connection with the same alleged fraud and corruption schemes. The DOJ states that on Oct. 10, 2013, Kelli Durham, ULOC’s former manager, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, admitting to intentionally overbilling the United States for services ULOC did not perform. Officials say Durham faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. In May 2013, Potts and Philpot pleaded guilty to receiving nearly $100,000 in bribes, according to the DOJ, and each will face up to 15 years in prison.
The case is being investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, with assistance from the Dougherty County District Attorney’s Office Economic Crime Unit, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, DLA Office of the Inspector General, and the Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Richard B. Evans and J.P. Cooney of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney K. Alan Dasher of the Middle District of Georgia.