MIL-OSI Security: Former Navy Civilian Employee Pleads Guilty to Bribery Involving Government Contracts Worth Hundreds of Millions

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Source: Office of United States Attorneys

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – June 11, 2024

SAN DIEGO – James Soriano of Las Vegas, Nevada, pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to multiple bribery conspiracies, admitting that while he was a public official at Naval Information Warfare Center in San Diego, he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from defense contractors in the form of free meals, tickets to premier sporting events, jobs for family and friends, and other things, in exchange for helping those contractors win and maintain hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts.  Soriano also pleaded guilty to filing a false 2018 tax return in connection with the bribes he accepted.

According to Soriano’s plea agreement, the defense contractors – acting through their presidents, officers, and employees – gave various things of value to Soriano, including dinners at Ruth’s Chris, Island Prime, and Providence; tickets to the 2018 MLB All-Star Game, 2018 World Series, and 2019 Superbowl; and jobs for Soriano’s family and friends, including a member of Soriano’s family and Soriano’s family friend, Liberty Gutierrez, who was giving Soriano $2,000 a month from her salary at one of the companies working under a defense contract. 

In return, Soriano took official action to aid his benefactors, such as allowing defense contractors to draft government documents in competitive and non-competitive procurements, submitting those documents as part of the procurement process, and advocating for their selection as defense contractors. Soriano also willfully failed to disclose the cash payments he received from Ms. Gutierrez on his federal tax returns.

According to Soriano’s plea agreement, from approximately March 2016 through at least October 2019, Soriano and a coworker, Dawnell Parker, received bribes from Philip Flores, the President and CEO of Intellipeak Solutions, Inc., a defense contractor headquartered in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Soriano also admitted that from approximately May 2015 through at least October 2019, he and Parker separately received bribes from another defense contractor, with offices in San Diego and Stafford, Virginia, who also gave him things of value, such as expensive meals, a job for his wife, and rounds of golf at private country clubs. 

Further, according to Soriano’s plea agreement, from approximately June 2014 through at least October 2019, Soriano received bribes from Russell Thurston, the Vice President of Cambridge International Systems, Inc., a defense contractor headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.  In return for these bribes, Soriano used various methods to steer contracts to these defense contractors and kept his contracting activities hidden from the Naval Information Warfare Center.

“The nation’s robust contracting apparatus relies on honesty and fairness,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “This guilty plea demonstrates a commitment to the integrity of the system by holding accountable a defendant who lined his own pockets at the expense of taxpayers.”

“Mr. Soriano betrayed the trust the U.S. Navy placed in him by using his position to wrongfully enrich himself and others, ultimately at the expense of the Department of Defense and the American taxpayer,” said Bryan D. Denny, Special Agent in Charge for the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Western Field Office.  “His guilty plea should act as a deterrent for others contemplating or attempting to misuse a position of public trust to subvert the integrity of the government’s acquisition process.”

“Mr. Soriano decided to put his own interests above U.S. Navy warfighters, trustworthy businesses, and our country’s taxpayers,” said Special Agent in Charge Greg Gross of the NCIS Economic Crimes Field Office. “Protecting the integrity of the Department of the Navy’s procurement process from individuals abusing their official position to unlawfully seek personal gain remains a core function for NCIS and our partners.”

“Exploiting a position of public trust to fraudulently access federal programs for personal gain is unacceptable,” said SBA OIG’s Western Region Special Agent in Charge Weston King. “This guilty plea underscores our relentless efforts to combat corruption, protect taxpayer dollars, and maintain the integrity of SBA programs. I would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication to the pursuing justice in this case.”

“Mr. Soriano violated the trust placed in him to responsibly oversee a fair and competitive process in his role as a contracting officer,” said Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher, IRS Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office. “Instead, Mr. Soriano selfishly exploited that trust for personal benefit, meanwhile undermining a contracting process that ensures warfighters are equipped to fight and win in a complex and ever-changing global security environment. CI is committed to working with our federal law enforcement partners to help protect our servicemembers from this sort of malign activity that diminishes national security.”

Soriano is next scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Todd W. Robinson for sentencing on September 6, 2024.

Intellipeak and Flores are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery in 23-cr-2282-TWR.  Thurston is charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery in 24-cr-341-TWR.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick C. Swan and Katherine E. A. McGrath (no relation to U.S. Attorney McGrath).

DEFENDANT                       Case Numbers 23-cr-2282-TWR-1 and 24-cr-341-TWR-1

James Soriano                         Age: 63                                   Las Vegas, NV

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy to Commit Bribery – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371

Maximum penalties (per count): Five years in prison; $250,000 fine

False Statements in Tax Returns – Title 26, U.S.C., Section 7206(1)

Maximum penalties: Three years in prison; $100,000 fine

INVESTIGATING AGENCIES

Defense Criminal Investigative Service

Naval Criminal Investigative Service

Small Business Administration – Office of Inspector General

Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation

Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General

If you have information regarding fraud, waste, or abuse relating to Department of Defense personnel or operations, please contact the DoD Hotline at 800-424-9098.

MIL Security OSI