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Florida couple admits to role in military bribery, fraud scheme
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Florida couple pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Utah for their roles in a bribery and fraud scheme involving federal procurement contracts at Hill Air Force Base.

Sylvester Zugrav, 70, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and procurement fraud. His wife, Maria Zugrav, 67, pleaded guilty to concealing a felony.

Sylvester Zugrav faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while Maria Zugrav faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. They will be sentenced on June 19.

The Zugravs were indicted in 2011. Also named in the original complaint was Jose Mendez, 51, of Farr West, Utah, then a procurement program manager for the U.S. Air Force Foreign Materials Acquisition Support Office at the base. Mendez pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and procurement fraud and forfeited more than $180,000 he received as part of the bribery scheme. He will be sentenced on May 13.

The Zugravs owned Atlas International Trading Co., which contracted to provide foreign military materials to the U.S. government. In his plea, Sylvester Zugrav admitted that from 2008 through August 2011, he gave Mendez bribe payments and offered him more than $1 million in additional payments in return for assuring Atlas was awarded future contracts. In exchange, Mendez ensured the company received contracts and information that helped it bid successfully.

Some payments were sent to Mendez by Federal Express, while others were made in person or through wire transfers to an account Mendez arranged to have set up at a bank in Mexico. The scheme also used covert email accounts and code names — Mendez was identified as "Chuco" and Sylvester Zugrav as "Jugo" — to conceal their activities.

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