Utah defendant pleads guilty in military fraud case
A second defendant implicated in a multi-million dollar military fraud case entered a guilty plea Monday to conspiracy to commit government procurement fraud and money laundering.
Christopher Harris, 49, who once lived in southern Utah, faces a penalty of up to five years on the first count and up to 20 years on the second charge and total fines of up to $500,000. U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell did not set a sentencing date for Harris, however.
Delayed sentencing may occur when a defendant has agreed to provide prosecutors with information or serve as a witness in another case.
Prosecutors agreed to drop 42 other counts in exchange for Harris’ plea, who told Campbell he has a job and place to live waiting for him in Lake Havasu, Ariz. Campbell said Harris will be on supervised release.
Harris, along with Michael Taylor of Boston and David Young of Florida, was indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2012 on allegations they participated in a fraudulent scheme to obtain military contracts between 2007 and 2009 that eventually amounted to $54 million. Prosecutors alleged about half that amount was illicit and was distributed to Young through a network of shell companies and bank accounts created to conceal and launder funds.
An investigation began after Harris allegedly told a bank clerk in St. George that he made withdrawals in amounts under $10,000 to avoid government scrutiny.
In the plea agreement, Harris admitted that in 2007 he received confidential bid information from Young, an Army reservist who was deployed in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army at the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force. Young was director of the Afghan National Security Force Partnering at the time and was tasked with supervising transfer of the country’s national security responsibility to the Afghans.
The pilot contract, worth nearly $900,000, was to provide weapons maintenance training and mentoring to Afghan commando units.
Harris was then working as the country manager in Afghanistan for American International Security Corporation (AISC), a Boston-based firm owned by Taylor that provides security services. Harris said Young also shared the bid information with Taylor.
AISC subsequently submitted the winning bid for the initial contract, which was later renewed and expanded.
Harris said AISC paid him $17 million for his work as its in-country manager in Afghanistan and that he and AISC then paid Young more than $9.4 million in contract proceeds. The money was distributed to other individuals and entities as directed by Young, according to Harris’ plea agreement.
In addition to his admission, Harris agreed to forfeit two homes in St. George, Utah; lots in St. George, Utah, and Peachland, British Columbia; and $30,300 in cash.
Prosecutors agreed to ask Campbell to give Harris a three-level reduction under offense sentencing guidelines and to recommend that Harris be sentenced at the low-end of the range then applicable.
On Nov. 27, Taylor entered guilty pleas to one count of violating the federal Procurement Integrity Act and, in a related case, one count of wire fraud. He was released after spending 14 months in the Davis County jail. As part of Taylor’s deal, prosecutors agreed to seek two sentences of up to 24 months, set to run concurrently. As in Harris’ case, there was no sentencing date set for Taylor.
A trial for Young is set to begin Jan. 6, but on Monday his attorneys asked that the trial be continued because they have not yet received numerous documents, some of which may be classified.
"Mr. Young desires to view these documents prior to being forced into a trial on this matter as they very likely contain material information about the central issue in this case: whether Mr. Young was authorized to disclose otherwise protected contract information to his co-defendants in the days leading up to the award of the contract," the motion states.
The document also says Taylor plans to "enter into an agreement with the government and testify as a government witness at Mr. Young’s trial."