Most instances of individuals losing their security clearance involve (relatively) mundane issues like significant foreign relatives, a recent drug offense or unpaid taxes. But among the professionals who choose to pursue a government contracting career and then go down the path of the dark side, there are some stand-out instances of individuals who have defrauded the government in significant ways in their path to imploding their cleared career.
Two cases in early May alone that were flagged by our editorial team pinpoint why financial issues are far and above the top reason for security clearance denial and revocation. In two instances, government contractors were motivated by money to scam, cheat, and lie their way out of their jobs and into court.
The first story involves a Sandia National Labs contractor who, according to the Albuquerque Journal, used a government-issued credit card to purchase thousands of dollars of personal items, including a $944 engagement ring and a $1200 set of golf clubs (I’m just going to say it – if his girlfriend didn’t dump him when the charges were filed, she needs to on that set of information alone). The purchases were made over the course of four years, and began two years after the government card was first issued (maybe the guy was trying to get back at the government payment system for being such a bear).
The contractor would mis-label the items, claiming they were for purchases necessary for his job of training Department of Energy employees. The scam shows how easily it is in the online consumer era to make purchases and then funnel the money toward other items. The engagement ring, for instance, was purchased via Amazon and labeled by the contractor as a tripod. If the purchases weren’t made using a government card, it’s highly likely the fraud could have continued longer, with items billed via a contract vehicle and without any lack of oversight.
It’s an important reminder that no matter how comfortable you get with your company or agency’s accounting rules, somebody is always watching.
Don’t Bribe the FBI
In another recent case, a 63-year old Centreville, VA contractor was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and a $100,000 fine for bribing an FBI contracting official in Pocatello, ID. For over two years the owner of the construction management company provided the FBI official with items and more than $120,000 in cash. The payments helped grease the skids of several contract awards and favorable payments to the construction management firm in projects for the FBI’s Pocatello Data Center.
The contractor may have been thinking, ‘what’s $120,000 among friends?’ but this is a good time to consider the agency you’re working with. It’s the FBI. They pretty much wrote the book on financial crimes. And they like polygraphs. The Department of Justice announcement didn’t indicate what criminal charges face the FBI contracting officer, but unless he was a part of some elaborate two-year sting (and the announcement doesn’t read that way), it’s likely he or she is also facing both criminal, civil, and obviously career and security clearance penalties.
Play Stupid Games, Lose Government Careers
In both instances, these are individuals who will never be working for the federal government. The company owner will likely see his company barred from any future government contract work. The Sandia National Labs contractor will likewise find his career prospects stinted and will certainly not be able to obtain a security clearance any time soon – and certainly not until after he gets out of jail.