Navarrete's conviction stemmed from his work as a supervisor with CPF Corp. That company previously had the courthouse contract, and Navarrete was a CPF supervisor at the courthouse immediately before Topflite took over in March and brought him on. CPF has done work over the years in numerous government buildings.
From 1999 to 2001, prosecutors said, Navarrete repeatedly overstated in reports the number of employees CPF had working at Reagan National Airport to make it appear that the company was meeting staffing requirements of the contract. He knew the information was false, prosecutors said.
In addition, according to the government, instead of subcontracting out part of the work, as the contract required, Navarrete instructed some CPF employees to don different-colored smocks so that they appeared to be employees of another company.
In court papers, prosecutors estimated that the failure to hire the subcontractors defrauded the airport authority of $554,000, part of more than $2 million they said was lost in the fraud.
Charging papers and other court documents said that Navarrete's actions were part of a larger fraud orchestrated by CPF's president, Jose M. Sampedro. Navarrete aided Sampedro and acted under his direction, the documents said.
Arrested in Spain in 2001 after authorities in the United States issued a warrant, Sampedro fought extradition, according to U.S. prosecutors. He fled in 2002 when a judge ruled that he would be sent back to the United States. He has been a fugitive ever since.
CPF, which pleaded guilty to tax charges, is being run by a court-appointed receiver, according to prosecutors.
Defense lawyer Christopher B. Mead, who represented Navarrete, called him "a good person" who was caught up in something he could not control. "He was beholden to a boss who was ripping the government off," Mead said. Navarrete cooperated with investigators, and his probation ended early, Mead said.
Before and after his legal troubles, Navarrete has been a familiar face at D.C. Superior Court, because of his work for CPF, for Topflite and for his own company, M&N Contractors Inc., which officials said has been hired about 10 times to do maintenance work for the courthouse.
Lascelles A. Samuels, president of Topflite, said this week that when a client, such as the court, has a security requirement, it is up to the client to perform the background checks.
Samuels would not say whether he knew of Navarrete's conviction when he selected him as project manager. The fact that Navarrete had worked at the courthouse suggested that he was not a security risk, he said. "Whatever happened or didn't happen, there was no red flag to say that he couldn't continue," Samuels said.
Topflite's courthouse workforce includes Edith Aleman, who was convicted of stealing while she was employed by CPF, records show. Aleman, 49, was working at Reagan National when she was caught stealing after hours from an airport restaurant, according to the airport authority and the owner of the restaurant.
After a complaint by the owners of the Ranch 1 restaurant, police installed a hidden surveillance camera last year and watched as Aleman and other CPF employees pilfered sodas and snacks almost every night for two weeks, said one of the owners, Seth Benjamin, in an interview.
Aleman pleaded guilty in June in Arlington County to petty larceny, a misdemeanor, according to court records and the commonwealth attorney's office. Aleman was sentenced to nearly a year in jail, but all but a month of the term was suspended. Attempts to reach her for comment were unsuccessful. No one answered the telephone in calls over the past week to her home in Adelphi.
People with criminal records typically would not be authorized to work unescorted in Superior Court buildings. Navarrete's access was never limited, court officials said. Aleman is restricted and allowed to work only during daytime and in the court's auxiliary buildings, officials said.
Staff researchers Bobbye Pratt and Karl Evanzz contributed to this report.