U.S. Customs and Border Protection contractor admits taking kickbacks

A Customs and Border Protection service contractor who analyzed technical details of an information technology project admitted Thursday that he took kickbacks to share internal information that helped one company win a lucrative job.

Chancellor Ellis, 37, pleaded guilty to conspiring to obtain illegal gratuities and violating the Procurement Integrity Act, admitting that he helped steer a $24 million contract to a particular company in exchange for a $150,o00 payout. Ellis is the latest of several to plead guilty or be sentenced in the far-reaching procurement fraud case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kosta Stojilkovic said in court Tuesday that Ellis was a “service contractor” for Customs and Border Protection, and starting in about 2008, he and others in a company he co-owned began working on an information technology project for the agency. Customs and Border Protection hoped to hire another contractor for the project, and Ellis’s work gave him access to inside information about the contracting process, Stojilkovic said.

Ellis shared that information with an information technology re-seller, negotiating a 10 percent “referral fee” for some of the government work it won, according to his plea. After it won the $24 million contract, Ellis and those working with him split a roughly $350,000 payout — 10 percent of the company’s margin, according to the plea.

Court records do not name the companies involved. Ellis, of Manassas, is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 12. He and his defense attorneys declined to comment after the hearing.

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Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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