BALTIMORE, NOV. 14 -- Two former high-ranking U.S. Naval Academy officials were charged today with steering almost $4 million in construction work to Annapolis contractor Carroll R. Dunton as part of an alleged bribery scheme.
The charges, part of a wide-ranging federal investigation of contract irregularities at the academy between 1985 and 1988, include allegations that the two officials received more than $34,000 in cash and other gifts from Dunton.
The gifts, prosecutors said, included air conditioners, washer-dryers, a trash compactor, a lawn mower and tractor, a generator and several household water-treatment systems.
Charged with conspiracy are James E. Weston, 47, of Henderson, Nev., retired chief public works officer at the academy, and Eugene E. Hook, 67, of La Vale, Md., former construction director and a Weston subordinate.
Weston, who retired recently as a Navy captain, also was charged with five counts of bribery and one count of obstructing justice.
The obstruction charge arose from allegations that he failed to furnish all the contract documents requested by a grand jury.
Hook appeared in court late today to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy. He faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Sentencing was set tentatively for Jan. 22 by U.S. District Judge John R. Hargrove. Hook was released on personal bond pending sentencing.
Weston is expected to fly to Baltimore next week for arraignment on the charges against him. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and $1.7 million in fines.
Dunton pleaded guilty in July to giving illegal gratuities to Weston and is awaiting sentencing in January.
Breckinridge L. Willcox, U.S. attorney for Maryland, said the investigation is continuing.
"Public officials who abuse their positions of trust for personal gain will bear the full weight of the federal criminal justice system," he said in a statement.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane F. Barrett, who has headed the investigation, said more charges are possible. However, she said the probe is not likely to go higher than Weston.
The investigation follows other recent probes at the academy by military and congressional panels looking into allegations that include improper hazing, harassment of female midshipmen and theft of exam papers.
In a statement of facts filed today by Barrett, Weston and Hook were accused of accepting the gifts over a three-year period and then trying to hide their activity from investigators.
In exchange for the cash and gifts, the assistant prosecutor said, Weston also gave Dunton "preferred bidder" status among competing contractors.
In addition, she said, Dunton was awarded a $961,333 contract to install heating and ventilating systems in Rickover Hall, a large classroom building at the academy, even though his bid was 55 percent over the government estimate.
According to the charging documents, Weston received most of the cash and gifts with Hook acting as a go-between, arranging the delivery of the gifts.