The first trial arising from investigations of corruption within the General Services Administration ended today with the conviction of a former GSA office supply center manager on charges of bribery and conspiracy to defraud the government.
Frank N. Ellis, 34, was found guilty of accepting bribes of television sets and stereos from a Maryland office supply firm in return for authorizing payments to the company for office supplies GSA never received.
The jury found Ellis innocent of three charges that he accepted bribes of a five-day Bermuda vacation and about $5,000 in cash.
The jury of eight men and four women deliberated about eight hours over two days before returning its verdict. Ellis, who had been suspended from GSA pending the outcome of the trial, stood silently with his hands clasped behind his back as the jury foreman began reading the guilty verdict.
When the fourth guilty finding was read, Ellis shook his head slowly and looked down at the table in front of him. Later, he said he "felt fine," but had no comments on the verdict.
Ellis' trial began more than a week ago in U.S. District Court here, just across the street from the GSA office supply center that Ellis managed for three years. The center provides federal workers with attache cases, pencils, paper clips and other office supplies.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel M. Clements and Elizabeth H. Trimble presented 19 witnesses against Ellis, including employes and executives of James Hilles Associates, a Maryland office supply firm.
Clements, who is supervising the investigations of corruption within GSA centers, said during the trial that Hilles received $1.7 million from GSA for merchandise never delivered and paid out $1.3 million in bribes to various government officials.
Ellis did not take the stand in his own defense and presented no witnesses during his trial.
Instead, his lawyer, P. Paul Cocoros, called Ellis a "victim" of GSA's lackadaisical system for keeping track of millions of dollars in inventory. He said GSA had no records to show whether office supplies had been delivered or not.
Corcoros also called the witnesses against Ellis -- many of whom had either pleaded guilty to other charges connected with GSA corruption -- a group of liars, schemers and thieves who themselves stole $1 million from the federal housekeeping agency.
Ellis was found guilty of 12 counts of bribery, submitting false claims to the government, and conspiracy to defraud the government.Judge Joseph H. Young delayed sentencing until he receives a presentence background report on Ellis. If sentenced to maximum consecutive jail terms, Ellis could go to prison for 90 years.
Defense attorney Cocoros suggested to reporters after the trial that the jury had found Ellis innocent of the charges that he took $5,000 in cash bribes because, "the testimony was so complicated and conflicting that nobody could figure out how much money was given or how it was given."
Cocoros said he plans to appeal the conviction and also ask for a new trial on the grounds that the verdict was "contrary to the evidence."
Ellis was one of 41 persons indicted to date in the ongoing GSA corruption scandals. Of that number 33 have pleaded guilty. The trial of Melvin K. Davis, the assitant manager of a GSA supply center in Rockville, is scheduled to begin Thursday.