Former Nashville Airport Official Pleads Guilty to $1.1 Million Fraud and Bribery Scheme Involving Airport Contractors
John T. Howard, Jr., 45, of Nashville, Tenn., pleaded guilty today to three felony charges resulting from his role in a fraudulent invoice scheme and his solicitation and receipt of a bribe, announced David Rivera, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. Howard was formerly an Assistant Vice President of the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority (“MNAA”), a public entity responsible for the operation of the Nashville International Airport.
Howard was charged in a criminal information on September 25, 2015, and pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, one count of soliciting and receiving a bribe, and one count of money laundering.
“Persons who hold a position of public trust and abuse their position to enrich themselves with taxpayer money will be held strictly accountable,” said U.S. Attorney David Rivera. “The United States Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue public corruption at all levels.”
In a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Aleta A. Trauger, Howard admitted conspiring with certain MNAA contractors to submit fraudulent invoices to MNAA for construction and repair work that they had not performed, overseen, or verified. Howard instructed one contractor to submit fraudulent invoices to MNAA, and also agreed that this contractor would recruit other contractors to submit fraudulent invoices. Howard approved these fraudulent invoices and then accepted cash payments from the contractors. Howard acknowledged that the total amount paid by MNAA in connection with these fraudulent invoices was more than $1.1 million.
Howard also admitted asking a contractor to purchase more than $49,000 in airline tickets to Las Vegas for players, coaches, and others affiliated with a youth basketball organization run by Howard. In return, Howard awarded an MNAA cleaning job to this contractor.
Howard faces up to 20 years in prison on the conspiracy count and up to 10 years in prison on the counts of bribery and money laundering. Howard will also be ordered to pay restitution to MNAA, and will face forfeiture of the proceeds of his offense. Howard will be sentenced by Judge Trauger on January 28, 2016.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service- Criminal Investigation and the Office of the District Attorney General for Davidson County. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William F. Abely.