Defense Contractor Pleads Guilty to Bribing a U.S. Navy Official

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A defense IT company and one of its former executives have pleaded guilty to charges of bribery in connection with a scheme to get U.S. Navy contracts at a base in San Diego. 

Russell Thurston, 51, and his then-employer Cambridge International Systems have admitted to offer things of value to James Soriano, a contracting officer at the Naval Information Warfare Center. Thurston and his subordinates gave Soriano free meals, a ticket to the 2018 MLB All Star Game, and jobs for Soriano’s friends and family. One of these new hires did not appear to have job responsibilities, and gave half her salary to Soriano in the form of a monthly cash payment, prosecutors alleged. That individual, identified as Liberty Gutierrez, has also been charged and has pleaded guilty. 

In return, prosecutors claim, Soriano ensured that Cambridge received two large task orders and a steady stream of approved projects, amounting to about $130 million worth of business and $7.4 million in profit. According to prosecutors, Soriano would even let Cambridge write up his procurement documents. 

“Service members depend on the honesty and integrity of our nation’s defense contractors to be able to do their jobs,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “A business model based on fraud is both illegal and undermines the fairness of the system.”

Soriano also stands accused of a similar bribery scheme with a second defense contractor, Virginia-based IT firm IntelliPeak. 

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