HAFB bribery, fraud suspects plead guilty

Feb 27 2013 - 6:04pm

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Florida couple and a former Hill Air Force Base employee have all pleaded guilty in a bribery and fraud scheme involving federal procurement contracts handed out by the Air Force.

Sylvester Zugrav, 70, of Sarasota, Fla., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and procurement fraud Wednesday morning in U.S. 10th District Court in Salt Lake City.

His wife, Maria Zugrav, 67, also pleaded guilty on Wednesday to misprision of a felony related to her efforts to conceal the conspiracy.

The Zugravs were charged in an indictment along with Jose Mendez, 51, of Farr West, who was a procurement program manager for the U.S. Air Force Foreign Materials Acquisition Support Office at Hill Air Force Base.

Mendez was charged in the indictment with conspiracy, bribery and procurement fraud.

Mendez, who awaits sentencing, had previously pleaded guilty to all charges and agreed to forfeit the more than $180,000 he received as part of the bribery scheme.

According to court documents, the Zugravs owned Atlas International Trading Company, a business that contracted to provide foreign military materials to the U.S. government through Mendez's office.

In his plea agreement, Sylvester Zugrav said that from 2008 through 2011, he gave Mendez more than $180,000 in bribe payments, and offered Mendez more than $1 million more to ensure Atlas would receive future contracts with FMASO.

In exchange for the bribe payments and offers, Mendez ensured that Atlas received favorable treatment in connection with procurement contracts, including assisting Atlas in obtaining and maintaining procurement contracts; assisting Atlas in receiving payments on such contracts; and providing Atlas with contract bid or proposal information before the award of procurement contracts.

According to court records, Sylvester Zugrav provided bribe payments to Mendez in three ways: Cash payments via Federal Express to Mendez's residential address; in-person payments of cash and other things of value; and electronic wire transfers to a bank account in Mexico opened by, and in the name of, Mendez's cousin.

Hill spokesman Rich Essary confirmed Wednesday that officials at Hill are aware of the case and that Mendez is no longer employed at the base.

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