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Chesapeake millionaire admits to $50,000 in bribes

Timothy S. Miller, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist, pleaded guilty Thursday to paying bribes in exchange for millions in government contracts.

Miller, 58, of Chesapeake, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to paying a gratuity to a public official.

He faces up to two years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 7.

Miller admitted that while working for Miller Hardman Design, a company then co-owned by his daughter and Dwayne Hardman, he paid $50,000 in bribes to two government officials with the Navy's Military Sealift Command in exchange for lucrative contracts.

Hardman, who admitted paying $144,000 in bribes during a four-year period with Miller Hardman and a previous company he worked for, has also pleaded guilty and is serving an eight-year prison term.

Miller's lawyer said if it wasn't for Miller, no one would have been prosecuted in the case.

"He brought it to the feds," said the attorney, Jon Babineau.

"He thought it was wrong that government officials who control contracts were on the take," Babineau said. "What he should have done was gone to the police that day."

Prosecutors insisted on charging Miller because of the bribes he paid in 2009, but they let him plead to a lesser offense than other co-conspirators.

Miller previously owned ACS Systems and Engineering, which also did government work. Officials said that company had been investigated for a similar gratuity scheme, but authorities found no evidence of wrongdoing.

A high school dropout and self-made millionaire, Miller has given away millions of dollars to charities, mostly involving youth sports but also to Old Dominion University.

He remains free on bond pending sentencing.

Miller recently became involved in another controversy after his daughters' company, Government Contracting Specialists Inc., received a $120,000 grant from North Carolina to move the business, and its 60 jobs, from Chesapeake to Currituck County.

Miller was an unpaid adviser for the company but removed himself completely because of federal procurement rules, Babineau said.

Tim McGlone, 757-446-2343, tim.mcglone@pilotonline.com

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