By Allan Lengel
WASHINGTON — Gerardo Chavez knew how to get coveted posts at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was a special supervisory special agent and attaché in Caracas, Venezuela.
He also knew how to make money illegally.
On Friday a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., sentenced him to 7 ½ years in prison for taking kickbacks for a no-bid U.S. government contract for defective armor 4-wheel drive vehicles in South America and the Carribean .
According to court documents, Chavez, 46, of Clifton, Va., served in Venezuela from 2003 to 2007.
During that period, he used his position to steer $2.8 million in “sole source U.S. Government contracts” to a Caracas-based firm Blincar for the armored vehicles, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. In turn, he got a $172,000 kickback from the owner of Blincar and was hoping to get $87,000 more before the crime was uncovered by the FBI and Homeland Security, authorities said.
The FBI eventually conducted ballistic tests on the armored cars and found the armoring to be defective, authorities charged. Consequently, the government said, 45 armored vehicles were replaced at a cost of more than $5 million.
Authorities said that in addition to the kickbacks, Chavez also received about $250,000 in unreported funds outside of his salary.
He wired that money and the kickback funds to California in his brother-in-laws’s name to purchase and remodel a home in Clifton, Va., authorities alleged.
OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST
- Sixth Philly Officer Killed in 2 years (AP)
- Four Congress Members Ask Justice to Investigate Civil Rights Allegations in Arizona Sheriff’s Dept. (AP)