Scam Alleged at Aberdeen Proving Ground
Three Civilian Army Workers, Salesman Charged in 15-Count Indictment

By Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 23, 2006

Three civilian employees at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground conspired with a company's sales representative to defraud the government through a purchasing scam that spanned nearly two years, a federal indictment alleges.

According to the indictment, which was unsealed yesterday, the employees bought equipment on behalf of the Army at inflated prices, arranging for some of it to be described incorrectly on invoices and delivered directly to their homes. Douglas Atwell, 51, is accused of receiving golf balls described as a "ball bearing assortment" and a shed described as a "large hardware assortment."

The Army employees -- Atwell, of Port Deposit, Gerard Yursis, 45, of Parkton and Ellis Lonabaugh, 52, of Elkton -- and salesman Wayne Silbersack, 64, of Forest Hill were charged in a 15-count indictment alleging bribery, theft and other offenses. All appeared yesterday in federal court in Baltimore but did not enter pleas.

Silbersack, when reached by phone, declined to comment. Attempts to reach the other defendants were unsuccessful. A spokesman for Silbersack's employer, Lawson Products, did not return a message left late yesterday.

Atwell allegedly placed orders in excess of $400,000 for the Aberdeen Test Center, enabling Silbersack to collect higher commissions and the defendants to receive some equipment for personal use, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

In one case, the indictment says, the Army paid $8,250 to Lawson Products for a shed while Silbersack had Lawson pay $4,929 for it at Home Depot; the shed, described on an invoice as "con/mat tools," was delivered to Yursis.

Yursis and Lonabaugh, in an effort to conceal their activities from auditors in 2004, delivered some of the property they had acquired through the fraud to the Aberdeen Test Center, the indictment says.

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