BALTIMORE, DEC. 4 -- A Silver Spring defense contractor and two of its former officers were charged today with paying $103,000 in bribes to a key Navy official to try to win millions of dollars in computer software contracts in the mid-1980s.
Automated Sciences Group, known as ASG, was indicted on federal bribery, conspiracy and racketeering charges for allegedly paying the $103,000 to Richard D. Ramirez, former minority small business coordinator for the Navy and a major figure in the Wedtech procurement scandals of the 1980s.
Charged along with ASG were its former chairman, Conrad Hipkins, 58, of Silver Spring, and its former president, Clarence Braddock, 61, of Alexandria.
Also charged in the case was Louis J. Rainey, 61, of West Virginia, a consultant retained by ASG to help it win government contracts, prosecutors said.
According to papers filed in federal court, Rainey acted as a conduit for payments from ASG, Hipkins and Braddock to Ramirez between March 1983 and January 1987. "Ramirez was in a position to influence Navy procurement policies, procedures and decisions affecting small and minority-owned and minority-operated businesses," the papers said.
ASG is a black-owned business specializing in designing office automation and computer software for warehouse inventories, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney William K. Meyer, who headed the investigation by the FBI and the Defense Criminal Investigation Service.
To facilitate the bribery scheme, the charges allege, Ramirez and his father, Richard, set up a phony company in Maryland called Brandeis Corp., whose sole function was to receive periodic bribe payments from ASG.
During the 1983-87 period, investigators said, ASG was awarded three contracts by the Navy totaling about $8 million.
If convicted, Hipkins faces up to 40 years in prison and $1 million in fines. Braddock and Rainey could receive up to five years' imprisonment and $250,000 in fines. The corporation faces up to $2 million in fines.
Investigators indicated that Braddock and Rainey are cooperating with the probe and are expected to plead guilty later this month.
Hipkins's attorney, Michael Schatzow, said Hipkins is "innocent of wrongdoing" and is "confident he will be vindicated" at trial.
ASG attorney Bruce A. Baird had no comment except to say the present officers of the company were "not involved in the allegations."
Ramirez pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to receive $60,000 in bribes from Wedtech, the Bronx, N.Y., defense firm that won numerous government contracts in the mid-1980s with the help of Reagan administration officials. He is serving a one-year prison sentence.