Three arrested in kickbacks at Edelweiss military resort
A senior official for the U.S. military’s premier resort in Europe and two other Americans were arrested Friday in connection with a bribery and kickback scheme during the construction of the $80 million Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in southern Germany, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.
Steven G. Potoski, 45, of Garmisch, Germany, the director of contracting for the hotel, admitted to investigators he accepted more than $350,000 in bribes from German, American and British contractors during his tenure, according to a criminal complaint cited in a DOJ news release announcing the arrests.
Two American contractors — Vance McQueen, 56, of Shelbyville, Ind., president and owner of Flat Rock Furniture, and Ellis Abramson, 39, of Merrick, N.Y., president of Bramson House Inc. — were charged with delivering bribes to Potoski, the news release stated.
Citing a criminal complaint filed in a district court in New York, the news release stated that Potoski worked with at least 15 contractors and subcontractors to inflate prices for items in hotel contracts, then split the extra money with them. Additionally, Potoski accepted cash and goods ranging from televisions and laptop computers to home renovations and tickets to the Indianapolis 500, the DOJ alleges.
Potoski, who is considered a public official because the Edelweiss is managed by the Army’s Community and Family Support Center and was built using Army contracts, has been charged with accepting bribes as a public servant, accepting kickbacks from a government contractor and conspiracy, among other charges, according to the news release.
The Edelweiss opened a year ago as a replacement for three aging hotels in Garmisch operated by the Armed Forces Recreation Center. It is a plush, 330-room resort intended for U.S. military community and servicemembers on leave from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Edelweiss officials did not return queries to Stars and Stripes on Monday evening.
Mcqueen was arrested after he allegedly passed $100,000 in cash to an undercover agent posing as Potoski’s replacement, and faces charges in Indiana of paying bribes and kickbacks, among other charges, according to the DOJ news release. Abramson had a similar arrangement with Potoski for draperies and guest room bedspreads, the Justice Department alleged in the news release.
The three men face up to 35 years in prison if convicted.
Led by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and the Internal Revenue Service, the investigation is continuing with help from foreign police agencies, the DOJ news release stated.