A General Services Administration contractor, who admitted receiving $210,000 from GSA for work never performed, was fined $5,000 yesterday and given three years probation by a U.S. District Court judge.
Judge Oliver Gasch, who also required contractor David Harold Smith to contribute 200 hours of community service as part of his sentence, cited Smith's "extensive cooperation" in the government's investigation of the GSA scandals.
At a sentencing hearing yesterday, Gasch described the GSA scandal as "the most heinous offenses brought to my attention." But the judge rejected a plea from Assistant U.S. Attorney William S. Block, who argued that Smith should be sentenced to jail because "it is important that we deter white collar crime."
Smith had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government. He admitted he received $210,000 through phony GSA contracts and kicked most of the money back to GSA officials. Smith, who owns D. H. Smith and Sons in Adelphi, faced up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Smith's lawyer, H. Clifford Allder, described his client as a decent man with no prior criminal record. Allder told Gasch that Smith "found the only way he could get government contracts was, in the vernacular, 'doing business' with the government."
Smith, 55, is the first individual involved in the GSA scandal to be sentenced in Washington. So far, 45 persons have been indicted and 42 of those have pleaded guilty or been convicted in the continuing investigations of GSA corruption in Washington and Baltimore.
Prosecutor Block, who heads the GSA investigation in Washington, said he told Gasch all individuals who have pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government in parallel investigations in Baltimore have received jail terms of two months to a year. Those who have not cooperated with the government have received jail terms of up to four years, Block said.
"We seek incarceration as being the ultimate deterrent to white collar crime," Block said he contended.
In an interview yesterday after the hearing, Gasch said "he [Smith] was the first person to cooperate [in the Washington investigation] and made a clean breast of it. Besides, he's a small contractor, and it [going to jail] would cause it [the company] to deteriorate irretrievably. It's important to be able to support his family. I don't feel everbody should go to jail."
Gasch is expected to sentence the other nine defendants who have entered guilty pleas in connection with the GSA investigation in Washington.