UPDATE Friday below: A press release Wednesday from the US Attorney’s Office in middle Georgia has caused a jolt of disbelief as two Worth residents face federal charges, admitting to accepting over half a million dollars in bribe money. According to the press release Mitchell D. Potts, 48, and Jeffrey S. Philpot, 35, both pled guilty Wednesday before U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands in the Middle District of Georgia to one count of bribery of a public official. See more below:
Both Potts and Philpot admitted their part in the scheme operated through the Marine Corps Base (MCLB) in Albany led to millions of dollars of overcharges to the government in an estimated 3-year period. As part of a plea bargain, both subjects have agreed to pay back monies they accepted along with restitution.
Officials apparently are seeking more arrests in the year old case, in particular the subject referred to in the following press release as ‘Person A’.
Worthit2u.net attempted to contact NCIS Public Affairs a year ago in regard to another person with ties to Worth County. Based on information we learned, we were seeking confirmation the subject was a person of interest in the case, however we never received response. ‘Person A’ is actually identified in a WALB news report as a close friend to the two charged yesterday. Assuming all incidents are related in recent MCLB bribery arrests, at least six have now pled guilty since January. Sentencing for Potts and Philpot is scheduled for Aug. 15th.
We have submitted questions to the US Department of Justice Public Affairs Specialist for the Criminal Division, Peter Carr, who assures us he will be in touch with response soon.
We will update further as information is released.
US Attorney’s Office Press Release
WASHINGTON – Two former employees at the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany (MCLB-Albany) have pleaded guilty to receiving bribes related to a scheme to funnel freight hauling business to a local transportation company resulting in the loss of millions of dollars to the United States government, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore for the Middle District of Georgia.
Mitchell D. Potts, 48, and Jeffrey S. Philpot, 35, both of Sylvester, Ga., each pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands in the Middle District of Georgia to one count of bribery of a public official.
During their guilty pleas, Potts, the former Traffic Office Supervisor for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) at MCLB-Albany, and Philpot, the former Lead Transportation Assistant in the Traffic Office, admitted to participating in a scheme whereby Potts and Philpot assisted Person A, the owner of several local commercial trucking companies, in obtaining trucking business from the DLA in exchange for the payment of cash and other things of value. Both defendants admitted that they took a variety of steps designed to push business to Person A and his companies, including: 1) delaying shipments for a period of hours or days, thereby reducing the time available to fulfill the shipping request and assuring that it would be awarded to a local trucking company, usually one owned by Person A; 2) “short loading” shipments awarded to Person A’s companies so that it would appear to require more trucks than necessary to move the subject freight, resulting in additional loads being awarded to Person A’s companies; 3) indicating that removable gooseneck (RGN) trailers were required for shipments, which resulted in many loads being directed to Person A’s companies because they always had RGNs available; and 4) creating “ghost shipments” where Person A billed the DLA for shipments that were never made. Both Potts and Philpot admitted that their actions led to millions of dollars of overcharges to the government.
Potts and Philpot admitted that they received cash payments from Person A when he visited the traffic office, sometimes multiple times per week. They also admitted receiving lunches provided by Person A several times a week during the relevant period and that they also received gift cards and other things of value. Potts admitted receiving approximately $209,000 in kickbacks from Person A during the roughly three-year scheme. Philpot admitted receiving approximately $523,000 in cash and other things of value from Person A during the same period.
At sentencing, Potts and Philpot each face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine of not more than twice the pecuniary loss to the government. As part of their plea agreements with the United States, both Potts and Philpot have agreed to forfeit the bribe proceeds they received from the scheme, as well as to pay full restitution to the Department of Defense. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 15, 2013.
“Not only were Mr. Potts and Mr. Philpot lining their pockets with bribe money, they were stealing from the American people. I have no tolerance for this type of corruption and theft, and my office will continue to investigate this type of criminal activity, plucking bad apples from the barrel whenever we find one,” said United States Attorney Michael Moore.
The case is being investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, with assistance from the Dougherty County District Attorney’s Office Economic Crime Unit, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Defense Logistics Agency Office of the Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Richard B. Evans and J.P. Cooney of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney K. Alan Dasher of the Middle District of Georgia.
US Department of Justice Public Affairs Specialist for the Criminal Division, Peter Carr confirmed today that to date, the following six people have been arrested and pleaded guilty in connection with corruption at the Marine Corps Logistics Base:
Tom Cole (sentencing 6/6/13)
Fred Simon (sentencing 6/6/13
Michelle Rodriguez (sentencing 6/6/13)
Shelby Jones (sentencing not yet scheduled)
Mitch Potts (sentencing 8/15)
Jeff Philpot (sentencing 8/15)
Mr. Carr said the court has released each defendant on personal recognizance pending sentencing. “The loss amount in the Potts/Philpot case has not yet been raised in open court; we expect to do so at a later proceeding,” he added.
As far as confirmation on the overall involvement of yet another Worth County subject in the scheme we initially inquired about Carr stated, “As a matter of Department of Justice policy and local court rules, we do not comment on whether an individual is under investigation, nor do we disclose information regarding those not named in court documents. However, this matter remains an ongoing investigation.”
Local news station WALB did however locate documents involving seizure of over 100 properties naming Christopher Whitman of Sylvester and reporting ‘the federal government accuses Whitman and his trucking firms of fraudulent practices to over bill the government’.