The San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN DIEGO — A defense contractor and a former San Diego-area Department of Defense civil engineer have been indicted in San Diego as part of an alleged bribery scheme involving the exchange of lucrative government contracts for fancy dinners and tickets to the World Series and Super Bowl.
A second Department of Defense civil employee pleaded guilty last month in San Diego federal court as part of the same scheme.
The U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego announced the newest indictment Tuesday against 63-year-old Las Vegas resident James Soriano, the former engineer at San Diego’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, and 52-year-old Nashville resident Philip Flores, the president and CEO of Virginia-based defense contracting firm IntelliPeak Solutions.
Flores appeared in court Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to the charges, as did his company, which is also named as a defendant. Soriano is scheduled to appear in court Thursday. Attorneys for both men did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Court records showed Flores was convicted earlier this year in federal court in Georgia for a similar scheme to defraud the United States. He was sentenced last month to four months in federal custody and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine. Flores is appealing the judgment against him in the Georgia case.
Last month, Dawnell Parker, who worked directly under Soriano at the San Diego facility then known as SPAWAR, pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy charge. The indictments in both cases allege that she and Soriano accepted thousands of dollars worth of meals from Flores, while Soriano also accepted tickets to the 2018 World Series and 2019 Super Bowl.
Parker’s defense attorney, David Baker, emphasized last month that his client’s criminal conduct dealt with “a few dinners, not a tremendous amount of money.” The U.S. attorney’s office said that as part of Parker’s plea, she also admitted to accepting valuable items, including meals, from a second defense contractor with offices in San Diego and Virginia.
According to the indictments in both cases, the bribery scheme began no later than 2015 and involved Soriano and Parker helping to steer government contracts to Flores and IntelliPeak in a variety of ways. According to the latest indictment, IntelliPeak was eligible to compete for federal contracts through a program known as the Small Business Administration 8(a) Business Development program, which the SBA says was “created to help firms owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.”
Public relations material published online by IntelliPeak, based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, boasted that the firm is a “minority and veteran-owned small business that focuses on providing hardware, software, and consulting solutions to public sector and commercial organizations.”
According to the indictment unsealed Wednesday, IntelliPeak was subcontracting most of the contracts it received to companies that were not eligible for the 8(a) program and taking a cut of the profits.
In exchange for the perks they received from Flores over the years, Soriano and Parker allegedly rated Flores and his company highly during evaluations, falsified evaluation documents to benefit IntelliPeak, recommended IntelliPeak for various projects and gave Flores insider information that helped him submit the most attractive proposals.
The indictments allege that Parker, 54, and Soriano accepted expensive meals from Flores on both coasts, including two dinners totaling more than $1,500 at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Virginia; a dinner worth $859 at Bluewater Boathouse Grill in Coronado; a nearly $700 dinner at the since-closed de’Medici Cucina in the Gaslamp Quarter; a nearly $400 lunch at the University Club atop Symphony Towers in downtown San Diego; a $208 dinner at a Greek restaurant in Virginia; a nearly $520 dinner at a seafood restaurant in Virginia; and a nearly $400 dinner in Washington, D.C.
The priciest bribes were reserved for Soriano, according to the indictments, which allege that Flores took Soriano and his wife to watch Game 5 of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The trio watched the Boston Red Sox win the game to wrap up a 4-1 World Series victory over the Dodgers from field-level box seats that cost $7,161.
A few months later, in February 2019, Flores and Soriano watched the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, according to prosecutors. Flores allegedly paid $10,900 for the tickets.
With the help of Soriano and Parker, Flores was able to secure at least six contracts worth more than $7.7 million, according to documents from Parker’s case.
Earlier this year, a federal jury in Georgia convicted Flores and two other defense contractors of defrauding the U.S. The jury found the trio guilty of using IntelliPeak to secure three contracts worth nearly $8 million, then using the other company to actually fulfill the contracts.
“This scheme was only possible because Flores and his co-defendants improperly took advantage of special rules created for disadvantaged small businesses such as IntelliPeak,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
The recent indictments mark at least the second bribery and corruption scandal in the past 15 years involving employees at SPAWAR, which is now known as the Naval Information Warfare Center.
In 2010, a San Diego federal judge sentenced a SPAWAR engineer to more than six years in prison and ordered him to pay more than $500,000 in fines and restitution after he pleaded guilty to steering government work to a National City subcontracting company in exchange for cash and other gifts. His five co-defendants were also sentenced to prison or probation.