Federal officials built a bribery case against a Northern Virginia businessman who gave a $3,749 golf membership and $2,000 in cash to a General Services Administration official for help getting government contracts, but guess who got a criminal conviction and who went home free?
Prosecutors allowed the unidentified government official, a mechanical engineer in the Public Buildings Service, to testify as an anonymous “cooperating witness” and retire without charges. Francisco L. Bituin, the Filipino businessman, got six-months under house arrest and two years of probation.
But by the time a jury convicted Bituin of bribing a public official in November 2014, his FLBE., Inc., had already expanded in step with the sole-source contract privileges that come with minority-owned business status and having a favorable insider.
Bituin gave the golf club membership in May 2010, considering it an investment in his future business, according to court documents. The two men knew each other personally and the GSA official was in a official to help Bituin’s firm.
After the golf membership gift but before October 2013 — court documents don’t specify when — federal law enforcement officials asked the engineer to cooperate with them and meet with Bituin to offer a major contract renewal. Bituin handed the GSA engineer $2,000 in cash during a December 2013 lunch.
The GSA employee retired after being granted him anonymity as a “cooperating witness” in the bribery case against Bituin. A federal court in Virginia convicted Bituin of bribing a public official with the $2,000 gift, but not the golf club membership.
Joshua Stueve, spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District Court of Virginia, declined to say why federal prosecutors filed no charges against the GSA official. Stueve also declined to say when law enforcement intervened or how often federal prosecutors grant federal employees protection to help prosecute private sector officials.
He said he doesn’t think not prosecuting the GSA official reflects poorly on U.S. Attorney Dana Boente’s commitment to prosecuting public corruption.
“I certainly hope that’s not what people would think. We’ve prosecuted, just in the year that I’ve been here, but we’ve prosecuted a handful of public corruption cases. I hope that folks wouldn’t think that,” he said.
“Clearly, public corruption is very important to the U.S. attorney and we will continue to work with our partners to identify, investigate these cases and prosecute them here in the Eastern District Court of Virginia,” he said.
Since no charges were filed, GSA IG spokeswoman Sarah Breen said privacy laws protect the civil servant against being identified publicly. Bituin declined to comment through his lawyer.
Sole-source GSA PBS contracts have propelled FLBE’s business since 2009, and continued after FLBE secured new ownership in February of this year.
As a minority-owned business, FLBE qualifies for single-source contracts of up to $6.5 million with the federal government. GSA PBS contracts have funneled approximately $34 million to the company since 2009, according to USASpending.gov.
FLBE had only two employees and $200,000 in annual revenue in spring 2010, but those totals increased to 21 and $2.7 million by December 2013.
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