President of Local Defense Contractor Pleads Guilty to Bribery Conspiracy Involving Texas Army Depot
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK—CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON HENSLEY, 57, of Yukon, Oklahoma, pled guilty today to conspiracy to bribe a public official at the Corpus Christi Army Depot, announced Sanford C. Coats, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.
Hensley is the founder and president of Aerochem, Inc., based in Oklahoma City. Aerochem manufactures paint remover (“depaint”) products, and it sold these products to Tinker Air Force Base (“Tinker”) and other military bases for several years. On June 9, 2015, Hensley was charged by information with conspiracy to bribe a public official at the Corpus Christi Army Depot (“CCAD”) in Corpus Christi, Texas. The information alleged that Aerochem started selling paint remover products in 2010 to CCAD. According to the information, Hensley and Soney E. Beesley, a former Aerochem officer, developed a relationship at CCAD with Richard Balderas, Jr., a supervisor of a CCAD division that stripped paint off military helicopter parts. The information alleged that Hensley and Beesley provided entertainment, wire transfers, and more than $3,000 in cash to Balderas in exchange for his favorable treatment of Aerochem’s business interests at CCAD. At today’s plea hearing, Hensley admitted that he approved of Beesley taking Balderas out to gentlemen’s clubs in Corpus Christi and using Aerochem money to buy a $2,600 football helmet for the football team of Balderas’ son.
In December 2014, a grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Hensley, charging him with bribing a public official, conspiracy to commit bribery, and making false statements to the government about an Aerochem product’s conformance with government military specifications. Under a plea agreement, the government will dismiss the indictment. At sentencing, Hensley faces up to five years of prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy count. Hensley will be sentenced in approximately 90 days.
Hensley is the fourth defendant to plead guilty to an Aerochem bribery scheme involving Tinker and CCAD. In October 2013, SHELVIE RAYMOND TABB, 50, of Canadian, Oklahoma, pled guilty to accepting cash from an Aerochem employee in exchange for Tabb’s favorable treatment of Aerochem’s business interests in federal contracting. Tabb is a former depaint section chief at Tinker.
In February 2014, SONEY E. BEESLEY, 41, of Oklahoma City, plead guilty to offering a bribe to a public official. Beesley admitted at a plea hearing that he made cash payments to Tabb in exchange for Tabb’s favorable treatment of Aerochem’s interests in federal contracts at Tinker.
In June 2014, RICHARD BALDERAS, JR., 47, of Ingleside, Texas, pled guilty to accepting a bribe as a public official. At the plea hearing, Balderas admitted that as a CCAD supervisor, he helped to decide when the Army Depot needed to replace its paint stripper. Balderas further admitted that in 2011 and 2012, he accepted cash from Beesley on behalf of Aerochem, and Beesley represented that the cash payments were based on how much paint stripper CCAD bought from Aerochem.
At sentencing, Tabb, Beesley, and Balderas each faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. United States District Judge Joe Heaton will sentence Tabb and Beesley on August 5, 2015. Judge Heaton will sentence Balderas on August 6, 2015.
These charges and guilty pleas are the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris M. Stephens.
Reference is made to court filings for further information.