Spokane, Washington –Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that as part of ongoing joint efforts by the Spokane DEA Task Force, the Spokane Police Department Special Investigations Unit, and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, approximately 35 pounds of methamphetamine, approximately 50,000 fake pills believed to contain fentanyl, and seven guns were seized in an ongoing drug trafficking investigation. One person was arrested and booked for obstruction of justice.
The U.S. Attorney noted the seizures and commended the joint nature of the ongoing investigation. “Yesterday’s seizures took a large amount of potentially lethal narcotics off the street, along with a number of guns that appear to have been connected to the drug trade,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “One fentanyl-laced pill can kill, so this seizure likely saved dozens, if not hundreds, of lives in the Spokane area. When it comes to investigating cases like this, it is truly a force multiplier to have DEA, FBI, Spokane PD, and our task forces working together seamlessly to seize these poison pills, protect the community, and keep Eastern Washington safe and strong. I commend and thank everyone involved in yesterday’s operation.”
Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Senior Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson has sentenced Jeremy Gilbert, 35, of Moses Lake, Washington, to just over fifteen years in federal prison, followed by a four-year term of supervised release.
In August 2021, Gilbert, who has 13 prior adult felony convictions, pled guilty to Possession with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, stemming from an incident that occurred in August 2020 in the Grant County area. A homeowner called 911 to report that an unknown male, later identified as Jeremy Gilbert, was passed out in a vehicle in his driveway. Deputies from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office arrived and tried to wake Gilbert. In the vehicle, deputies saw easily-identifiable drug paraphernalia. Concerned that Gilbert was impaired, the deputies blocked Gilbert’s vehicle in the driveway and attempted to rouse him. After several minutes of deputies banging on the vehicle’s windows, Gilbert finally awoke and tried to start his vehicle. Ignoring instructions from the deputies not to do so, Gilbert started the engine and crashed into multiple law enforcement vehicles as he left the driveway. Gilbert then led law enforcement on a high-speed chase through the Moses Lake, Washington, area.
During the pursuit, Gilbert drove his vehicle in an incredibly dangerous manner, including driving the wrong way on Interstate 90, traveling at a high rate of speed through residential areas and school zones, and blowing through multiple stop signs and other traffic control devices. A deputy was eventually able to end the pursuit with a “PIT” maneuver. Gilbert refused repeated commands to exit the vehicle and show his hands, instead remaining in the vehicle and digging around under the driver’s seat. Eventually the window of his vehicle was broken and Gilbert was removed. After being booked into the Grant County Jail, Gilbert made a call to his wife and told her there were drugs in the vehicle.
Law enforcement officers obtained and executed a search warrant on the vehicle, and recovered a loaded firearm with a round in the chamber, under the driver’s seat. The gun had been reported stolen out of Wenatchee, Washington. Officers also recovered approximately 103.33 grams of methamphetamine and drug use paraphernalia.
Gilbert made bail in Grant County, and was contacted again by law enforcement on December 18, 2020, when he abandoned his vehicle and fled after another pursuit with law enforcement. A few days later, officers with the Moses Lake Police Department located Gilbert and attempted to apprehend him in a traffic stop. Ultimately, they had to use spike strips in multiple locations to disable the Mercedes Benz that Gilbert was driving. Eventually Gilbert crashed the Mercedes into a parking lot and attempted to flee on foot, but was quickly arrested. Gilbert had about 80 grams of methamphetamine on his person.
At the sentencing hearing, Senior Judge Peterson noted Gilbert’s clear drug addiction and the fact that he had purportedly completed treatment three times. The Court indicated concern that despite these repeated opportunities, Gilbert continued his destructive pattern of endangering the community, including law enforcement, and concluded that Gilbert’s persistent pattern demonstrated the need to protect the public from the danger he presents to the community.
“Justice for Mr. Gilbert – and the people of Moses Lake – was finally served today, after years of misconduct, more than a dozen felonies, and repeated scares to community and law enforcement safety,” said United States Attorney Waldref. “It must have been terrifying for other drivers to see him barreling toward them at a high rate of speed in school zones, residential areas, and on the freeway, where he was traveling in the wrong direction. Even after that dangerous conduct and significant evidence of drug crimes, Mr. Gilbert engaged in another dangerous elude-and-pursuit with additional methamphetamine on his person after he was granted bond and released pending trial. This significant sentence protects our community. Vehicular tragedy was avoided here only by virtue of the excellent, collaborative work of federal, state, and local law enforcement in Moses Lake and Grant County, and I commend our partnership with ATF, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, and the Moses Lake Police Department.”
“The brazen nature of these cascading crimes truly warrant this significant sentence,” said ATF Seattle Field Division Special Agent in Charge Jonathan T. McPherson. “We will always work closely with our state and local law enforcement partners to investigate felons who choose to possess firearms – particularly stolen firearms – when they know they are not supposed to have them.”
Kevin J. Fuhr, Chief of Police for the City of Moses Lake, concurred: “With Mr. Gilbert’s sentencing, the Moses Lake Community will be much safer. We appreciate our longstanding partnerships with the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, ATF, and the US Attorney’s Office. Our agencies will continue to work together to keep the people of Moses Lake and Grant County safe and secure.”
This case was investigated by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, the Moses Lake Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Assistant United States Attorney Caitlin Baunsgard of the Eastern District of Washington handled this matter on behalf of the United States.
Case No.: 2:20-CR-154-RMP
Spokane, Washington – Hensel Phelps Construction Company (Hensel Phelps), a large construction company headquartered in Greeley, Colorado, has agreed to pay $2,804,110, to resolve allegations that it improperly manipulated a federal subcontract designated for a business owned and operated by a service-disabled veteran announced Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, and Carla B. Freedman, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York.
“Taking advantage of contracts intended for companies owned and operated by service-disabled veterans demonstrates a shocking disregard for fair competition and integrity in government contracting,” said United States Attorney Waldref. “We insisted not only that Hensel Phelps refund the government and pay a hefty penalty for its misconduct, but that it admit to its misconduct.”
Federal government contracts and subcontracts may be reserved, or “set aside,” for various categories of small businesses, such that only eligible small businesses in a particular socioeconomic category are eligible to bid on, receive, and perform the contracts. One such category is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB), which is reserved for small businesses owned, controlled, and operated by veterans of the United States military who incurred a disability in the course of their military service to the United States. Large businesses that perform on large federal prime contracts must develop and implement small business subcontracting plans designed to subcontract portions of the work to SDVOSBs and other types of small businesses.
Hensel Phelps is a general contractor and construction company that performs large scale private construction and public works projects nationwide, including in Washington and New York States. In 2011, the U.S. General Services Administration, which oversees construction of many federal buildings, awarded Hensel Phelps a contract to construct the Armed Forces Retirement Home’s New Commons/Health Care Building in Washington, D.C. The Armed Forces Retirement Home provides retirement communities and residential facilities for veterans. As a condition of the contract, Hensel Phelps was required to have and implement a small business subcontracting plan to provide contracting opportunities for SDVOSBs and other types of small businesses.
During the course of the contract, Hensel Phelps negotiated with another large business, identified in the Settlement Agreement as “Company 1,” to provide kitchen and food service equipment for the Armed Forces Retirement Home. In the settlement agreement, Hensel Phelps admitted that it negotiated the entire subcontract, including all of the equipment, installation, and other needed kitchen work, including pricing, with Company 1, which was not an SDVOSB. Hensel Phelps further admitted that after it had fully negotiated the work with Company 1, rather than executing the subcontract with Company 1, Hensel Phelps instead entered into a subcontract with an SDVOSB, identified in the Settlement Agreement as “the SDVOSB,” providing for the same work and using the same terms and pricing that had been agreed upon between Hensel Phelps and Company 1, but including an additional 1.5% fee for the SDVOSB. Hensel Phelps further admitted that it should have known that the SDVOSB was merely a passthrough for Company 1, which was providing all of the work on the subcontract, including the bonding, purchase, and installation of all of the equipment, and that the SDVOSB’s role was limited to providing its SDVOSB status and making it appear as though an SDVOSB was performing the work.
In February 2022, United States Attorneys Waldref and Freedman announced that Trimark USA, LLC, an equipment vendor headquartered in Mansfield, Massachusetts, paid $48.5 million to resolve admissions and allegations that TriMark subsidiaries improperly manipulated and obtained contracts set aside for SDVOSBs nationwide, including the Armed Forces Retirement Home subcontract. In the same settlement, former TriMark executive Kimberly Rimsza paid an additional $100,000 penalty to resolve her individual liability.
United States Attorney Waldref further stated that “together with the landmark TriMark settlement, we have returned over $50 million to the public and provided accountability for these critical programs. I want to especially commend our strong partnership with the Northern District of New York and the stellar investigative work done by the case agents. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to pursue small business fraud and ensure fair contracting opportunities for our small business community, which is critical to a safe and strong Eastern Washington.”
“This settlement holds accountable another large company for scheming to obtain a contract set aside for a veteran-owned small business,” said United States Attorney Freedman. “Working closely with our colleagues in the Eastern District of Washington and our agency partners, we have returned millions of dollars to taxpayers over the past three months while demonstrating the serious consequences for those who divert contracting opportunities away from veterans.”
“Fraudulent schemes that take advantage of contract opportunities set aside for disabled veterans cheat the government and deserving bidders,” said GSA Inspector General Carol Fortine Ochoa “We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to preserve the integrity of federal contracting.”
“Protecting Department of Defense contracts intended for small businesses owned by disabled veterans of the United States military is a priority for the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General's Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS),” stated Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Hegarty, DCIS Northeast Field Office. “We will continue to work with the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners to hold companies accountable for circumventing SDVOSB requirements."
This case began in April 2022, when a whistleblower, a company known as Fox Unlimited Enterprises, LLP, filed a qui tam complaint under seal in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. When a whistleblower, or “relator,” files a qui tam complaint, the False Claims Act requires the United States to investigate the allegations and elect whether to intervene and take over the action or to decline to intervene and allow the relator to go forward with the litigation on behalf of the United States. The relator is generally able to then share in any recovery. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, the relator in this case will receive $630,925 of the settlement.
The settlement was the result of a joint investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Syracuse Post of Duty; the General Services Administration Office of Inspector General, New York Field Investigations Office; the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, New York Field Office; the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Procurement Fraud Detachment 6, Rome, New York; the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division, Syracuse Fraud Branch Office; the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Spokane and Buffalo Resident Agencies; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Economic Crimes Resident Agency Northeast; and the Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, Northeastern Region.
Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Fruchter and Tyler H.L. Tornabene of the Eastern District of Washington and Adam J. Katz of the Northern District of New York handled this matter on behalf of the United States.
Case No.: 1:22-cv-355 (NDNY)
Spokane, Washington – In honor of National Police Week, Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, recognized the service and sacrifice of federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement. This year, the week is observed Wednesday, May 11, through Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
“This week, we gather to pay tribute to the law enforcement officers who sacrificed their lives in service to our country,” said United States Attorney General Merrick Garland. “We remember the courage with which they worked and lived. And we recommit ourselves to the mission to which they dedicated their lives. On behalf of a grateful Justice Department and a grateful nation, I extend my sincerest thanks and gratitude to the entire law enforcement community.”
The U.S. Attorney joined the Attorney General in thanking law enforcement. “Throughout National Police Week, we thank our federal, state, local and Tribal law enforcement officers for their unrelenting commitment to protect us all and keep the communities of Eastern Washington safe and strong,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “Every day, these courageous men and women put their lives on the line for ours and we are extremely grateful for their sacrifice. We all owe them our deepest gratitude and respect.”
In 1962, President Kennedy issued the first proclamation for Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Police Week to remember and honor law enforcement officers for their service and sacrifices. Peace Officers Memorial Day, which every year falls on May 15, specifically honors law enforcement officers killed or disabled in the line of duty. Based on data submitted to and analyzed by the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), 472 law enforcement officers died nationwide in the line of duty in 2021. Of that number, 319 succumbed to COVID-19. In the State of Washington, seven officers have died in the line of duty, including Jon David Anderson of the Spokane Police Department.
Additionally, according to 2021 statistics reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) through the Law Enforcement Officer Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program, 73 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in 2021 were killed as a result of felonious acts, whereas 56 died in accidents. Deaths resulting from felonious acts increased in 2021, rising more than 58 percent from the previous year. In 2021, unprovoked attacks were the cause of 24 deaths significantly outpacing all other line of duty deaths resulting from felony acts and reaching the highest annual total in over 30 years of reporting. Additional LEOKA statistics can be found on FBI’s Crime Data Explorer website for the LEOKA program.
The names of the 619 fallen officers added this year to the wall at the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial will be read on Friday, May 13, 2022, during a Candlelight Vigil in Washington, D.C., starting at 8:00 PM EDT. Those who wish to view the vigil live online, can watch on the NLEOMF YouTube channel found at https://www.youtube.com/TheNLEOMF. The schedule of National Police Week events is available on NLEOMF’s website.
Reference to any specific organization or service(s) offered by an organization is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Department of Justice.
An unprovoked attack is defined as an attack on an officer not prompted by official contact at the time of the incident between the officer and the offender. Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) through the Law Enforcement Officer Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program.
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council will meet in person and via webinar in Whitefish, Montana next Wednesday, May 18. See the agenda (Mountain Time) with instructions on attending the meeting: https://www.nwcouncil.org/meeting/council-meeting-may-17-2022.
Yakima, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Kentey Ramone Fielder, age 42, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced today in federal court in Yakima, Washington. Chief Judge Stanley A. Bastian sentenced Fielder to 40 months in federal prison, followed by a 3-year term of supervised release. Chief Judge Bastian also ordered that Fielder pay restitution of $14,220.17.
In December 2021, Fielder pled guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a fraudulent scheme that he perpetrated concerning a contract with the United States Army’s Yakima Training Center (YTC), which is used by the Army for maneuver training, Land Warrior system testing and as a live fire exercise area. According to court documents, in 2015, Fielder obtained a contract to perform janitorial services at the YTC in the name of his company, Clean Contracting Services, (CCSI). Because Fielder had been disqualified from federal contracting in 2014, neither he nor CCSI were eligible to receive any federal contracts. Fielder obtained the YTC contract by misrepresenting that he was not affiliated with CCSI.
After obtaining the YTC contract, Fielder contacted Yakima Specialties, a Yakima-based non-profit that employs individuals with disabilities to perform janitorial and other services at federal facilities, according to court documents. Fielder posed as a government contracting official, and told Yakima Specialties that it had received the YTC contract. Posing as a government official, Fielder sent Yakima Specialties a fake YTC contract to perform the work, and included the name and signature of a real government contracting official that Fielder stole from a different contract. Believing it had been awarded the contract, Yakima Specialties performed the work, but was unable to obtain payment because it did not have the real YTC contract. Fielder then billed for and received payment for the work under CCSI.
According to court documents, the YTC contract was one of many contracts that CCSI and Fielder received using the fraudulent scheme described above. In July 2020, Fielder was indicted in the Eastern District of Washington for the fraud on the YTC contract. While Fielder was initially released from custody pending trial, in May 2021, he was subsequently ordered detained by the court for perpetrating a similar scheme in Georgia while on pretrial release, and will remain in custody until his sentence is served.
“Mr. Fielder’s fraud was as brazen as it was widespread, involving dozens of government contracts around the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “Through our investigation and prosecution here in the Eastern District of Washington, we were able to hold Mr. Fielder accountable and to protect the public from his fraud, which not only stole from public funds, but harmed non-profit entities such as Yakima Specialties, which exists to employ individuals with disabilities and to perform vital services for the public. Fraud devastates our community’s critical resources. My office will continue to work proactively with our law enforcement partners to stop fraudulent schemes, and I commend the exceptional investigative work and collaboration by this talented and hardworking team of case agents.”
“This sentencing is the result of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s commitment to ensuring that Department of Defense programs and missions are protected from fraudulent actions throughout the procurement process,” stated Special Agent in Charge Cynthia A. Bruce, Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Southeast Field Office. “Individuals who shamelessly violate the integrity of the defense contracting system for their own personal gain will be thoroughly investigated and brought to justice.”
“We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to uncover such deceitful schemes involving federal contracts,” said Special Agent in Charge Terry Pfeifer of the GSA Office of Inspector General.
“Today’s sentencing should serve as a stark reminder that our agents, and those of our partner law enforcement agencies, are unrelenting in their pursuit of those who choose to victimize government contractors through deceit and defrauding the US Army and its Soldiers of full, open, and secure competition within its procurement efforts,” said Special Agent in Charge L. Scott Moreland, Major Procurement Fraud Field Office, US Army Criminal Investigation Division.
The settlement was the result of a joint investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the United States Army Criminal Investigation Division; the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General; the General Services Administration Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General; the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General; the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General; the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General; the Department of State Office of Inspector General; the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General; and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division.
Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Fruchter and Tyler H.L. Tornabene of the Eastern District of Washington handled this matter on behalf of the United States.
Case No.: 1:20-cr-2027-SAB
Portland, Oregon – The Bonneville Power Administration reports that its positive first quarter financial performance has carried into the second quarter of 2022. BPA’s current net revenue forecast is $566 million compared to a rate case net revenue forecast of $178 million.
BPA’s forecast net revenue projection has grown $110 million over the quarter from $456 million. The growth can be mostly attributed to strong surplus power sales into a market that has not seen prices this high for several years.
“Our financial position at our midpoint is strong,” said Administrator and CEO John Hairston. “While we have another six months to go, barring any unforeseen setbacks, all indications are that we will close out the fiscal year in a better financial position than we originally forecast.”
The optimism is tempered by rising labor and materials costs. These pressures could slightly inflate BPA’s projected costs.
“BPA’s continued cost discipline will make a difference as we absorb these higher costs,” said Chief Financial Officer Marcus Harris. “Rising labor and material costs continue to weigh on what is otherwise a very strong financial year.”
The second quarter forecast for FY 2022 end-of-year reserves is strong as well, with both business lines forecast to be above the upper threshold for the reserves distribution clause. The second quarter estimate for end of year reserves for risk shows Power Services at just over $1 billion, Transmission Services at $272 million and the agency at $1.3 billion, an increase over the first quarter projection of $1.1 billion.
“Our reserves provide important liquidity to mitigate the uncertainty we face year-to-year in markets, water supply, runoff shape and the threat of unexpected weather-related costs,” said Harris. “At this point in the year, it is looking more likely that end-of-year reserves will be well above our upper reserves threshold.”
In fiscal year 2021, BPA provided a $14 million distribution of reserves to its Power customers, lowering power rates for FY 2022. BPA’s financial reserves policy states that when its financial reserves reach a certain threshold, the administrator may provide such a distribution or use for high value purposes such as providing rate relief, paying down outstanding debt or funding capital investments or other priorities. This year, end-of-year projections show a strong chance for some sort of reserves distribution for the power business line and a moderate chance for the transmission business line.
Also, S&P, Fitch and Moody’s have issued their 2022 ratings of BPA. All three rate BPA in the “high grade” category. S&P and Fitch kept BPA’s ratings the same (S&P AA-; Fitch AA). Moody’s rating stayed the same (Aa2), but improved its outlook from stable to positive due to BPA’s borrowing authority increase and increase in reserves for risk. More information on the ratings is available at the link.
BPA’s full second quarterly business review is available at the Quarterly Business Review webpage on bpa.gov.
The Bonneville Power Administration, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is a nonprofit federal power marketer that sells wholesale, carbon-free hydropower from 31 federal dams in the Columbia River Basin. It also markets the output of the region’s only nuclear plant. BPA delivers this power to more than 140 Northwest electric utilities, serving millions of consumers and businesses in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and parts of California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. BPA also owns and operates more than 15,000 circuit miles of high-voltage power lines and 261 substations, and provides transmission service to more than 300 customers. In all, BPA provides nearly a third of the power generated in the Northwest. To mitigate the impacts of the federal dams, BPA implements a fish and wildlife program that includes working with its partners to make the federal dams safer for fish passage. It also pursues cost-effective energy savings and operational solutions that help maintain safe, affordable, reliable electric power for the Northwest. www.bpa.gov
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