Marine major gets six months, dismissal for kickbacks

By DAVID ALLEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 15, 2008

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Marine major was sentenced to six months in the brig and dismissal from the service Wednesday after pleading guilty to taking a bribe from a Thailand water supplier during the annual Cobra Gold exercise in 2002.

Maj. Carl F. Davis, 48, a logistics officer who took part in seven Cobra Gold exercises since 1998, pleaded guilty to charges of using his position as a contracting officer for personal gain and to conduct unbecoming an officer.

According to testimony Tuesday, Davis, a 26-year veteran who rose through the enlisted ranks, accepted a loan of 100,000 Thai baht (about $2,324) in May 2002 from a contractor who was also a family friend.

The money was to help pay for Davis’ wedding to a Thai woman in June 2002, and a deal was made to repay the loan by looking the other way when the contractor delivered less bottled water than ordered, according to court testimony.

Davis, who was then a captain and working for the Cobra Gold Joint Task Force, said the contractor delivered “ghost” shipments of water on at least five occasions and split the profits, keeping 50 percent for herself and repaying herself for the loan with Davis’ half.

“I know I signed for ghost deliveries at least five times,” Davis said when questioned by the judge, Lt. Col. David Oliver.

The 2002 deal was the only charge against Davis, although Maj. Robert G. Palmer, the prosecutor, said Davis admitted to participating in similar deals during earlier Cobra Gold exercises.

“He took a bag of cash and purposefully looked the other way,” Palmer said during his sentencing argument Tuesday night. “This was a course of conduct he engaged in over a long course of time, not a momentary lapse of judgment.”

Palmer said Davis also admitted to investigators that he knew of other military members involved in kickback schemes but did not report the frauds.

Defense attorney Phillip Stackhouse, a Jacksonville, N.C., attorney and former Marine Corps military lawyer who specializes in defending servicemembers, said Davis should be allowed to remain in the service and retire, because he cooperated in a Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe into widespread contracting fraud in Thailand.

NCIS Special Agent Greg A. Gross testified that Davis was instrumental in supplying information that led to banning several Thailand contractors from doing business with the U.S. military and helping devise safeguards to prevent future fraud.

“He agreed to go after certain parties that were involved in different crimes in Thailand,” Gross testified. He said Davis placed himself in danger by traveling with him to Thailand to work undercover.

However, Palmer argued, Davis did not become a cooperating witness until after he was confronted last March with a statement from another officer charged with fraud who named Davis as someone else who received kickbacks.

In that case, Maj. Timothy Venable, assigned to the 3rd Marine Logistics Group, was sentenced in April to four years’ confinement, a $25,000 fine and dismissal from the service for taking more than $100,000 in kickbacks from Thai contractors. Under the terms of a plea agreement, three years of the prison sentence was suspended.

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