By Del Quentin Wilber and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 20, 2009
A second D.C. government employee was charged yesterday with being a key participant in a kickback and bribery scam involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in District technology contracts.
The charges come as D.C. officials scramble to determine the fallout of the scandal. In a news conference yesterday, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said he had ordered an audit of the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer and had restricted its contracting powers to reduce the chance of fraud.
Farrukh Awan, 27, was arrested at his home in South Riding yesterday morning and appeared briefly in U.S. District Court before being released on personal recognizance.
He is the third person charged in what federal authorities have described as a complex and audacious scheme in which bribes and kickbacks were exchanged for contracts and the hiring of "ghost" employees.
Awan, who is on administrative leave, was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and to launder money. His attorneys declined to comment after the hearing.
The court appearance came a week after FBI agents arrested Yusuf Acar, 40, the acting security officer in the technology agency. Acar is being held without bond on bribery, money laundering, honest service fraud and conflict of interest charges.
Federal authorities allege that Awan and Acar accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from Sushil Bansal, 41, president and chief executive of Advanced Integrated Technologies, in exchange for having the D.C. government buy his products and hire his workers.
Bansal has been charged with money laundering and bribery. His firm generated more than $13 million in revenue from District technology contracts, according to court papers filed yesterday by FBI Agent Mary F. Gleason.
Awan worked in the D.C. technology office as a contractor starting in 2002. He became a full-time D.C. employee in April 2006. In early 2007, he moved to the office of the chief financial officer, Gleason wrote.
Gleason alleged that Awan laundered a huge portion of the bribes and kickbacks through Network Osiris, a Virginia company. Awan's wife, who is not identified in court documents, is the president and chief executive of Network Osiris, according to Gleason. She has not been charged in the case.
Gleason wrote that Bansal told investigators that he was approached by Awan shortly after the technology office rejected some of Bansal's employees for work in 2005.
Awan demanded bribes to place Bansal's workers. Wanting more D.C. government business, Bansal agreed, Gleason wrote.
From 2005 through 2007, Gleason wrote, Bansal's firm deposited more than $150,000 into the bank account of Network Osiris.
Awan told investigators that he split the conspiracy's proceeds with Acar and knew that what he was doing was "unethical and a conflict of interest," according to Gleason.
The scheme extended beyond employees, FBI agents alleged.
Bansal told investigators that he, Acar and Awan also shared a $25,000 profit from selling software to the government at an inflated price, Gleason wrote.
In response to the scandal, Fenty said yesterday that he has appointed deputy chief technology officer Chris Willey to be interim director of the technology office.
Willey replaces Vivek Kundra, who left the job to take a similar position at the White House.
Fenty said he ordered the D.C. Office of the Inspector General and the District's auditor, BDO Seidman, to investigate contracts issued by the technology office. He said a Maryland-based technology company, Chesapeake NetCraftsmen, will examine the District's computer security systems.
Acar told an informant that he had access to many of the D.C. government's computer databases and intercepted internal e-mails, FBI agents have said.
"This is what we would call an abundance-of-caution audit," Fenty said.
Fenty also said he will limit the office's small-purchase orders to $100,000 or less, which will be in line with other agencies. The office's managers had been allowed to issue contracts for services and goods worth up to $500,000 without having the orders scrutinized and approved by the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement.