A federal grand jury Tuesday indicted a vice president of a GTE Corp. subsidiary, a former marketing manager for the firm and a former GTE consultant on charges of conspiring to illegally obtain Pentagon budget documents for use in bidding on electronic warfare items.
In a related action, the subsidiary, GTE Government Systems, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy and agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and $580,000 in investigative costs incurred by the government. The firm also agreed to take “corrective actions” to prevent a recurrence of the crime.
Those indicted by the grand jury in suburban Alexandria, Va., were Walter R. Edgington, 60, a GTE vice president for marketing who maintains offices in Arlington, Va.; Robert R. Carter, 55, marketing manager until August, 1981, of GTE’s electronic warfare organization in Mountain View, Calif., and Bernie E. Zettl, 62, a defense consultant based in McLean, Va., whose clients formerly included GTE.
The indictment alleged that since November, 1978, the three men had conspired with unnamed other persons to obtain the Defense Department documents, including classified information, to identify potential contracts and to prepare bids and proposals.
As part of the conspiracy, the grand jury charged, Zettl entered into a consulting contract with GTE that contemplated he would turn over the Pentagon documents to GTE without authority. Zettl allegedly supplied the documents after markings were removed that identified their source within the Defense Department.
Zettl was charged with supplying the documents to Carter or an unidentified person in the corporation’s Rosslyn, Va., marketing office for shipment to other GTE employees.
Carter, Edgington and others allegedly restricted the circulation of the documents to a select few within GTE to conceal the unauthorized possession of the material.
GTE, in a statement from its Stamford, Conn., headquarters, said that the use of such Pentagon documents took place more than two years ago and “was a common industry practice.” It said the documents were handled only by persons with “appropriate security clearances” at its subsidiary.
“GTE Government Systems does not condone such activities,” the statement added, noting that the company would implement a program to prevent such occurrences.
Harvey W. Greisman, director of media relations for the parent company, said that Edgington’s status as a GTE vice president has not been changed, but declined to elaborate. He said Zettl is “no longer” a GTE consultant, but would not explain why.
The grand jury charged that Zettl disguised the true nature of his activities by providing monthly reports to Carter and Edgington “which made only veiled or no reference at all to the documents being provided.”
If convicted, Zettl and Edgington each could receive maximum sentences of 25 years in prison and $30,000 fines, while Carter could get up to five years and a $10,000 fine.
The Pentagon, in a statement, said that GTE’s conduct “is unacceptable” and noted that any corporate officials charged with criminally obtaining the information will be suspended from dealing with the government until their cases are resolved. If convicted, the suspension will become permanent, the statement said.
According to the Pentagon, GTE also has agreed that personnel who used the improperly obtained information will receive written reprimands and will be dismissed if they do so again.
In addition, company officers, managers and certain employees will be required to annually certify that they have not improperly acquired or used internal Defense Department documents and that they are not aware of others doing so, the Pentagon said.