By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
A former executive of a Pennsylvania defense firm with close ties to Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) has agreed to plead guilty to taking bribes from a partner defense company and is cooperating in a federal investigation of Pentagon contracting, records show.
Richard Ianieri, the former president of Coherent Systems International, agreed in court filings to admit that he took $200,000 in bribes from officials at a firm the company hired as a subcontractor. The charges were filed in court Monday and in more detail yesterday afternoon by federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh. They also indicate that Ianieri has consented to pleading guilty to the Pennsylvania charges in federal court in northern Florida, where he had faced unspecified but potentially related charges.
The company that allegedly paid Ianieri the bribes, identified in court filings only as "K," closely resembles Kuchera Defense Systems, which is based in Murtha's congressional district and was a subcontractor to Coherent. Kuchera Defense Systems and its sister company, Kuchera Industries, are under federal investigation for allegations of fraud and overbilling on Defense Department contracts.
Kuchera's attorney said he knows nothing about the charges. Coherent officials did not comment.
These are the first criminal charges in the probe of companies that benefited from contracts orchestrated or approved by Murtha, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on military spending.
Kuchera's corporate offices and the two top executives' homes were raided by the FBI and Defense Department investigators in January. In late April, the Navy suspended Kuchera for "alleged fraud."
According to court papers, Ianieri was working for Coherent when it was the lead contractor on a high-tech military project. He allegedly sought and took kickbacks in the form of two checks -- one for $102,832, the other for $97,013 -- from officials at "K." Prosecutors allege that the bribes "were provided for the purpose of improperly obtaining and rewarding favorable treatment" on the subcontract to "K."
Murtha has been a strong advocate for both companies getting Pentagon work. In 2006, he announced that Coherent was working "virtually as one" with Kuchera Defense Systems on $30 million in military contracts. In 2007, he announced that Kuchera had been awarded a $100 million, 10-year contract by Raytheon Missile Systems to build circuit boards for the Air Force. In the past two years, Murtha has orchestrated $14.7 million in congressionally directed contracts, also known as "earmarks," to be awarded to Kuchera to perform work for the military.
Murtha said recently that the fraud allegations surrounding Kuchera do not involve him.
"What's that got to do with me?" he said. "What do you think, I'm supposed to oversee these companies? That's not my job. That's the Defense Department's job."
Ianieri and other Coherent officials have donated a total of $92,000 to members of Congress since 2003, with $34,700 of that going to Murtha's reelection campaigns or political action committee.
Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.