Former Director on Redstone Arsenal Sentenced for $1.6 Million Procurement Fraud and Bribery Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 09, 2009|
BIRMINGHAM—U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn today sentenced a former high-level government employee with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville to five years in prison for a procurement fraud scheme that netted him $1.6 million in bribes, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.
Judge Blackburn also ordered MICHAEL L. CANTRELL, 54, of Huntsville, to pay the government $2.5 million in restitution and directed him to pay $352,145 in back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.
Cantrell has forfeited his Huntsville home, valued at $960,000, which was built with kickbacks he received for steering government business to specific contractors. The government recovered $274,940 when the house was sold. The judge entered a $685,060 forfeiture judgment against Cantrell for the government to recover the remaining value of the property.
“Mr. Cantrell abused his position with the U.S. Army for his own financial gain,” Vance said. “Although the United States requested a downward departure from Cantrell’s advisory guideline sentence based on his assistance to the government, which helped investigators identify and prosecute five other individuals in the case, the United States believes it is important that defendants like Cantrell serve time in prison. Prison time both punishes the defendant and deters future criminal conduct. The District Court recognized that need,” Vance said.
Cantrell was a civilian employee of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command at Redstone Arsenal and served as the director of the Joint Center for Technology Integration (JCTI) from 2000 to 2005. In 2005, the center was renamed the Integrated Capabilities Management Directorate (ICMD), and Cantrell continued serving as director until April 2007.
He pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery, and tax evasion arising out of the procurement fraud scheme involving contracts with the Space and Missile Defense Command. Cantrell admitted receiving about $1.6 million in bribes over six years in exchange for giving preference to certain contractors. The money came to him in cash, checks and wire transfers.
Cantrell received kickbacks in exchange for: recommending approval of contracts to certain contractors, applying and designating funding to those contracts, and causing payments to be made on contracts that produced nothing for the government.
“Today’s sentencing stresses the importance of holding accountable those who participate in kickback schemes that subvert the competitive process and corrupt fair competition of American businesses,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Maley.
The Space and Missile Defense Command has responsibility for research, development and acquisition of systems that may be used for defense against ballistic missiles. To carry out that mission, it solicited competitive proposals for basic and applied research projects. Cantrell, and people under his supervision, were authorized to evaluate proposals for contracts submitted in connection with the solicitations. Their evaluations were included in submissions to the contracting authority for the Space and Missile Defense Command. As director of JCTI and ICMD, Cantrell had decision-making authority over certain projects, including the ability to place funding on specific contracts.
Cantrell pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, two counts of bribery and one count of evasion of personal income taxes in 2002. Bribery was charged in two counts, as different contractors were involved in the schemes. Both counts charged him with receiving money or things of value from people who had an interest in and influence over companies that had contracts with the space and missile command. One count charged Cantrell with receiving about $1.2 million in bribes between 2001 and 2005; the second charged him with receiving about $400,000 between 2005 and 2007.
Cantrell’s tax evasion involved filing a false tax return. That return stated that joint taxable income was $156,785, when the actual income was $514,838, due to bribes received in 2002. Cantrell was ordered to file amend tax returns for all years the conspiracy was ongoing (2001 through 2005), and was ordered to pay all back taxes, calculated to be $352,145.
“Mr. Cantrell exploited his position as director of JCTI and ICMD, for his own personal financial gain, which came at the expense of the country he was entrusted to serve,” said Reginael D. McDaniel, IRS Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Investigations, in Atlanta. “IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to addressing corruption at every level, and is pleased to have been instrumental in this case” McDaniel said.
The case was investigated by special agents of the FBI, IRS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with the assistance and cooperation of the Army Space and Missile Command, the Army Criminal Investigation Division-Fraud Team, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service of the Department of Defense. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Whisonant and James Ingram prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.