U.S. Attorney Earl J. Silbert, in a highly unusual statement, yesterday criticized as "totally inadequate" sentences imposed by a federal judge on two General Services Administration contractors.
In court papers, Silbert said the sentences imposed by U.S. District Judge Oliver Gasch give the appearance that "crime does, indeed, pay."
The sentences in question involve a $5,000 fine, probation and 200 hours of community service each of two GSA contactors who admitted receiving $1.2 million in government funds for work never performed.
"Inadequate sanctions . . . make the risk (of committing crimes) one worth taking . . . They encourage dishonesty and corruption in government," Silbert said in the court document.
When he handed down the sentences, Gasch cited cooperation by the defendants and the hardship on their families that would result from jail sentences.
"These sentences are not sufficient to deter the type of major fraud which was perpetrated on the taxpayers of this country," Silbert said.
The contractors, David Harold Smith and Carmen O'Connor, are the first to be sentenced in Washington in the GSA corruption scandal. Gasch has been assigned to handle the sentencing of those charged thus far in the GSA investigation here.
O'Connor admitted receiving $1 million from GSA through contracts to do phony work. Smith admitted receiving $210,000 from GSA under similar fraudulent contract arrangements.
In both cases, the defendants accknowledged kicking back most ot the money to GSA officials who approved the phony contracts.
Judges Gasch, in explaining the sentences, has suggested that the contractors were victims of GSA officials.
In another GSA sentencing, Gasch imposed a six-month jail term on GSA imploye James N. Henslee. Henslee admitted recieving $50,000 to $75,000 in cash and other gratuities for awarding phony contracts.
In papers filed with the court, Silbert said there are not "innocent" parties to the lawful GSA transactions. He said both the contractors and the GSA employes "must be held fully responsible for their actions."
Silbert's statement was filed as an "aid in sentencing" future GSA defendants.
Silbert said the families of most defendants would suffer from imposition of a jail term. But, he added , "Many persons of lower incomes in our society who find themselves involved in common-law crime receive substantial prison terms, and the impact on their families is enormous." He suggested Gasch was fostering a "double standard" which would "free those of status and jail the poor."
Silbert cited the contrast between Gasch's sentences and the sentences imposed by federal judges hearing GSA corruption cases in Baltimore.
In those cases, 27 out of the 28 defendants sentenced have received prison terms of up to four years. Many of those cases involved fraudulent contract payments substantially less than the payments made to O'Connor and Smith. Silbert noted that most of the Baltimore defendants also had cooperated with prosecutors.
Silbert's statement brings into the open privately expressed outrage by those involved in investigating the GSA scandal.
FBI agents on the case have told prosecutors they feel the lack of jail terms indicates the massive investigation of GSA corruption in Washington has been a waste of taxpayers' money.
"We've had 12 agents assigned full-time to the GSA investigations for over a year," one agent said, "What for? If the people who pleaded guilty go free there's no point to it . It just shows that crime does pay." He added, "This kind of indifference to stealing millions of dollars is what started the scandal in the first place."
According to news reports last year, O'Connor's firm, Levcon Construction Co., painted about half the officers in GSA's headquarters building at 18th and F Streets NW. The firm received payment for painting 2.4 million square feet of surface area.
The investigators also found that O'Connor had one GSA building manager on retainer at $300 a week. While receiving the excess payments on her GSA contracts. O'Connor traveled widely and purchased two luxury sports cars, sources say.
The fraudulent payments to Smith wer made under GSA repair and alteration contracts.
months, said Sible accepted bribes amounting to more than $25,000 in cash and merchandise.
Sible's former assistant, Al Allen, 37, of Oxon Hill, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and a year's probation with the special condition that while on probation he devote at least 10 hours a week to community service work. Prosecutors, who recommended the 90 days in jail, said Allen accepted about $5,000 worth of bribes from manufacturers who sold goods to agency.
Both men are cooperating with prosecutors in the investigation of bribery and corruption in the massive government housekeeping agency.