NY man found guilty after bribing Navy Exchange employee $100,000 for tax-free alcohol
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 11, 2019
A fourth man involved in the illegal sale of millions of dollars’ worth of alcohol from the Mitchel Field Navy Exchange in New York has admitted to his role in the money-making kickback scheme.
Edwin D. Fragoso, 45, of Freeport, N.Y., pleaded guilty Friday in New York’s Eastern District federal court to one count of conspiracy. He paid nearly $100,000 in bribes to a NEX employee in exchange for tax-free booze and resold the liquor for profit, according to a Justice Department statement.
Fragoso, along with two other men, were found to have given more than $250,000 in cash to NEX supervisory sales associate Eric J. Jex, who sold them large quantities of liquor at a discount.
Adam Agaev and David Manasherov, both of Brooklyn, were tried separately from Fragoso. They pleaded guilty to conspiracy in January and are awaiting sentencing, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Jex pleaded guilty to one count of bribery in August 2017.
Fragoso is scheduled to be sentenced in December.
The overall scheme involved more than $6 million in alcohol purchases and began around November 2015, lasting for just over a year and appearing to give the Mitchel Field NEX’s alcohol sales a big boost. In 2016, the store was the third-largest volume seller of liquor out of 226 retail stores worldwide run by Navy Exchange Service Com-mand, according to court papers. In 2017, the store dropped to 20th in liquor sales.
For eligible personnel, such as servicemembers and Defense Department civilians, alcohol was a good deal at the Garden City, N.Y., exchange. Liquor sold there was not subject to state taxes, and retail prices were typically lower than those at similar stores open to the public, court papers said.
Fragoso, Agaev and Manasherov were not authorized to make purchases at the exchange. The men were described in Jex’s indictment as an individual who possessed a New York state liquor license, an emergency medical technician and an unlicensed liquor reseller.
Jex sold Fragoso alone about $1.3 million of NEX liquor at a discount of about $426,000, according to Fragoso’s indictment.
The purchases – all made with cash – were recorded by a video camera at the exchange. Fragoso and Jex were also recorded loading liquor into Fragoso’s van. They also exchanged numerous phone calls and texts.
Fragoso’s indictment describes the kind of liquor he bought on two occasions. In October 2016, Jex texted Fragoso the names of liquors and numerals: “Ciroc 4 Berry 6 Peach 12 Pine 7 Apple 30.”
Two months later, Jex sold Fragoso 100 cases of Hennessy cognac for $40,190. Fragoso, in exchange, gave Jex $1,850 in cash, according to indictment papers.
Jex worked at the Exchange for nearly a decade. He admitted to accepting more than $250,000 in the liquor scheme, typically receiving $5 to $20 per case of liquor, according to court documents.