Ex-Green Beret remains in Utah jail accused of Afghanistan fraud
A former Green Beret will remain in custody in Utah until his trial on allegations he conspired to bilk millions from the government through a military contract to provide services during the security transfer in Afghanistan.
Michael L. Taylor, of Boston, also faces new conspiracy and obstruction charges alleging he offered to pay an FBI agent in New York to thwart the Utah investigation that uncovered the alleged scheme. Taylor is currently being held at the Tooele County jail.
During a federal court hearing Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells allowed a second man indicted in the scheme David Young, of Florida, and also a former member of the Special Forces to remain free, but restricted his travel to three states and ordered him to post a $7,500 cash bond.
Both men entered not guilty pleas earlier this week to allegations they engaged in conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in a scheme that resulted in $54 million in payments for work maintaining vehicles and training Afghani commandos between 2007 and 2010.
In arguing against Taylor's release, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Driscoll told the judge that Taylor, 51, engaged in a "brazen, yearlong scheme" to undermine the Utah investigation that was "nothing short of astonishing" in scope, persistence and disdain for the justice system.
He said Taylor made cash payments to the unnamed FBI agent, with whom he had a prior business relationship, and promised millions more in return for his help "frustrate, delay or altogether derail" a Utah investigation.
The agent's actions on Taylor's behalf included designating him as a confidential source to protect him and limit any eventual culpability. The agent also interviewed potential witnesses in the Utah case; attempted to get current and former FBI and Department of Justice officials to intervene in Taylor's behalf; and urged investigators and assistant U.S. Attorneys in Utah to either end their investigation against Taylor or enlist him as a cooperative witness.
In return, Taylor gave the agent cash to cover medical expenses for the agent's child and promised the agent a share in proceeds from anticipated contracts for security, oil and power-generating projects in South Sudan, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.
The agent claimed in various emails that "there is no way they indict you," that the goal was to "blow the doors off this thing" and claimed that "we rready to blast Utah on 2 sides."
This summer, after learning an indictment was imminent, Taylor sent an email to a mutual acquaintance saying, "I guess that's the end of life for me."
Taylor and the FBI agent exchanged emails as recently as Tuesday just before Taylor was arrested at a Utah hotel and taken into custody before a scheduled court hearing. Driscoll said the agent has been suspended and is under investigation.
Driscoll also said Taylor has extensive financial, business and family ties in the Middle East that warrant keeping him in custody. Taylor's wife is a Lebanese citizen, one son attends college there and Taylor recently began an application to become a Lebanese resident. The country does not have an extradition agreement with the United States.
Steven Brooks, Taylor's Boston-based attorney, argued that his client needed to be freed to help with the complex allegations against him. Brooks said the government was "orchestrating" the situation to make it as difficult as possible for Taylor to defend himself.
Brooks also said Taylor's business, wife and two of his three sons are in Boston, where his client has established himself as a good member of the community. Taylor owns American International Security Corp.
"This is not a man who ran away from his responsibilities," Brooks said.
But Wells agreed with the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah that Taylor posed a significant flight risk and danger to the community.
Taylor served 11 years in the U.S. Army, and for part of that time was a Green Beret in the Special Forces. AISC, Taylor's company, provides security services to government, business and international agencies in the Middle East and Asia. It also specializes in returning children abducted by estranged spouses and taken overseas, according to a court document.
A federal judge will consider a change of venue on Friday for former Green Beret Michael L. Taylor and co-defendant David Young. A four-week trial is set to begin Nov. 26 in U.S. District Court.