(CN) – Twenty-two executives and employees in the defense industry have been charged with conspiring to bribe foreign officials. Prosecutors said it was the largest single investigation and prosecution against individuals in the history of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Twenty-one defendants were arrested this week in Las Vegas and one was arrested in Miami.
The 16 indictments allege that the defendants conspired to bribe a minister of defense in Africa. But prosecutors said it was all a giant undercover operation, with no actual involvement from any minister of defense.
“The defendants allegedly agreed to pay a 20 percent ‘commission’ to a sales agent who the defendants believed represented the minister of defense for a country in Africa in order to win a portion of a $15 million deal to outfit the country’s presidential guard,” the Department of Justice said in a statement. “In reality, the ‘sales agent’ was an undercover FBI agent.”
The defendants were told that half of the “commission” would be paid directly to the minister of defense. The defendants allegedly agreed to create two price quotations, one representing the true cost of the goods and the second including the 20 percent “commission.”
The defendants allegedly agreed to engage in a small test deal to show the minister of defense that he would personally receive the 10 percent bribe.
The indictments were returned on Dec. 11, 2009, by a grand jury in Washington, D.C, and unsealed this week.
Approximately 150 FBI agents executed 14 search warrants across the country, including Bull Shoals, Ark.; San Francisco; Miami; Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.; Sarasota, Fla.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Sunrise, Fla.; University Park, Fla.; Decatur, Ga.; Stearns, Ky.; Upper Darby, Penn.; and Woodbridge, Va. And the United Kingdom’s City of London Police executed seven search warrants in their own investigations.
The indictments charge these executives and employees in the military and law enforcement product industries:
Daniel Alvirez, 32, and Lee Allen Tolleson, 25, the president and director of acquisitions and logistics at a company in Bull Shoals, Ark., that manufactures and sells law enforcement and military equipment;
Helmie Ashiblie, 44, the vice president and founder of a company in Woodbridge, Va., that supplies tactical bags and other security-related articles;
Andrew Bigelow, 40, managing partner and director of government programs for a Sarasota, Fla., company that sells machine guns, grenade launchers and other small arms and accessories;
R. Patrick Caldwell, 61, and Stephen Gerard Giordanella, 50, the current and former chief executive officers of a Sunrise, Fla., company that designs and manufactures concealable and tactical body armor;
Yochanan R. Cohen aka Yochi Cohen, 47, CEO of a San Francisco company that manufactures security equipment, including body armor and ballistic plates;
Haim Geri, 50, president of a North Miami Beach company that serves as sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries;
Amaro Goncalves, 49, vice president of sales for a Springfield, Mass., company that designs and manufactures firearms, firearm safety/security products, rifles, firearms systems and accessories;
John Gregory Godsey, aka Greg Godsey, 37, and Mark Frederick Morales, 37, the owner and agent of a Decatur, Ga., company that sells ammunition and other law enforcement and military equipment;
Saul Mishkin, 38, the owner and chief executive officer of an Aventura, Fla., company that sells law enforcement and military equipment;
John M. Mushriqui, 28, and Jeana Mushriqui, 30, the director of international development and general counsel/U.S. manager of an Upper Darby, Penn., company that manufactures and exports bulletproof vests and other law enforcement and military equipment;
David R. Painter, 56, and Lee M. Wares, 43, the chairman and director of a United Kingdom company that markets armored vehicles;
Pankesh Patel, 43, the managing director of a United Kingdom company that acts as sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries;
Ofer Paz, 50, the president and chief executive officer of an Israeli company that acts as sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries;
Jonathan M. Spiller, 58, the owner and president of a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., company that markets and sells law enforcement and military equipment;
Israel Weisler, aka Wayne Weisler, 63, and Michael Sacks, 66, owners and co-chief executive officers of a Stearns, Ky., company that designs, manufactures and sells armor products, including body armor;
John Benson Wier III, 46, the president of a St. Petersburg, Fla., company that sells tactical and ballistic equipment.
All of the defendants except Giordanella were arrested this week by FBI agents in Las Vegas. Giordanella was arrested in Miami, also by FBI agents.
Each indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to violate the FCPA, conspired to engage in money laundering, and engaged in substantive violations of the FCPA. The indictments seek criminal forfeiture of the defendants’ ill gotten gains.
The maximum prison sentence for the conspiracy count and for each FCPA count is 5 years in prison. The maximum sentence for the money laundering conspiracy charge is 20 years in prison.