A former Unisys Corp. executive and a company consultant pleaded guilty today to trying to bribe former Navy officials, in one case buying an official’s condominium in Idaho for an inflated price in an attempt to influence decisions on lucrative Pentagon contracts.
U.S. Atty. Henry Hudson said the pleas from Charles F. Gardner, a former vice president of Unisys Corp., and James G. Neal, a private consultant for Unisys, “will move this investigation forward . . . at a tremendous pace.”
He called the pleas, as well as one from another consultant, Kenneth F. Brooke, a “significant development” in the 2 1/2-year-old investigation into fraud in the Defense Department’s purchasing procedures. The case has focused on allegations that companies tried to manipulate the system by using consultants to pay bribes for inside information about contracts.
Gardner, 58, who worked until March, 1988, for a Unisys division in Great Neck, N.Y., appeared before U.S. District Judge Claude Hylton in a packed courtroom.
“Guilty. Guilty. Guilty,” he said in a strong voice when asked how he pleaded to charges of bribery, conspiracy to file false statements and aiding and assisting in the filing of a false tax return.
Gardner is a key figure whose cooperation could be significant in helping prosecutors make major cases in the long-running investigation. Today’s charges link him directly to Melvyn Paisley, the former assistant secretary of the Navy for research, engineering and systems, and, to date, the highest-ranking official publicly identified in the case.
Gardner also has ties to a group of firms and individuals on Long Island whose offices have been searched by the FBI. The government has said it is looking into possible extortion of campaign contributions involving congressmen in the Long Island segment of the investigation.
Documents provided by prosecutors said Gardner sought to bribe Paisley by arranging for the purchase of Paisley’s condominium at the Sun Valley, Ida., ski resort in August, 1986.
“Gardner instructed James G. Neal that the condominium was to be purchased for $149,000 and that no negotiation or attempts to lower the price were to be undertaken, even though the unit was overprice,” Hudson said in a statement. They later sold the condominium for $100,000, Hudson said.
Hudson said the condominium purchase at an inflated price was designed to influence Paisley’s actions on two Pentagon contracts sought by Unisys. The prosecutor refused to say what Paisley did on Unisys’ behalf. Paisley has not been charged with any crime.
In another case, Gardner caused the campaign committees of Rep. Roy Dyson (D-Md.) and former Rep. Bill Chappell Jr. (D-Fla.) to receive illegal campaign contributions of $1,000 each, Hudson said.
Gardner, who with the others agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the ongoing investigation, faces up to 23 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000.
Neal, 63, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe Garland Tomlin Jr., who at the time was a Navy employee. Neal paid Tomlin about $400,000 to influence Tomlin’s official decisions, prosecutors said. Tomlin has not been charged with any crime. Neal faces up to 15 years in prison and fines of $750,000.
Brooke, 40, a stepson of William Galvin, a consultant whose name has been linked to Paisley’s, evaded his taxes in 1985, prosecutors said. He faces a sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Hylton set sentencing for July 14.