D.C. Technology Official Arrested on Bribery Charges
Friday, March 13, 2009
A D.C. government official and a business executive were arrested yesterday on bribery charges involving city technology contracts that included "ghost" workers and kickbacks, federal authorities said.
Raiding offices in the hunt for documents, FBI agents carted away boxes and envelopes throughout the day from the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, the center of the alleged fraud.
In court documents released yesterday, FBI agent Andrew Sekela laid out the complicated and audacious schemes allegedly orchestrated by a mid-level manager who approved many contracts involving the city government's technology needs.
Authorities said the conspiracy was uncovered with the help of a D.C. government employee who recorded conversations with the executive and the city official.
The ultimate cost to the city is not known, but the disclosure comes as it is trying to recoup its losses from an embarrassing tax swindle that siphoned almost $50 million from its coffers over almost two decades.
Until recently, the technology office was headed by Vivek Kundra, who has taken a job as President Obama's chief information officer. A White House official confirmed last night that Kundra has taken a leave of absence.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said he was unaware of the technology office investigation until yesterday's raid and arrests. He said the city will "cooperate fully" with the probe.
Yusuf Acar, 40, who has worked in the technology office since 2004, was charged with bribery, conspiracy, money laundering and conflict of interest. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Hibarger told a federal judge that Acar is a flight risk because agents seized $70,000 in cash in his house and because in recorded conversations, he boasted that he could easily flee to his native Turkey. Acar also told the informant that he could use computers to create fake D.C. birth certificates, Hibarger said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola ordered the Northwest Washington resident held without bond until a hearing Tuesday. At least three other D.C. employees who have not been charged were involved in varying degrees, Sekela alleged.
Sushil Bansal, 41, president and chief executive of the contracting firm Advanced Integrated Technologies Corp. (AITC), was charged with bribery and money laundering. He was released on personal recognizance. Federal agents said Bansal's company received more than $13 million in revenue from the D.C. government in the past five years.
Bansal's attorney, David Lamb, declined to comment. Dani Jahn, a public defender who represented Acar yesterday, also declined to comment.
The technology office is one of two city agencies that are given some leeway in purchase orders. It can dole out noncompetitive orders up to $500,000, compared with a $100,000 limit for other agencies. Acar was one of about 50 managers in the technology office, which has a $69 million budget, 300 employees and 300 contractors.