Retired Air Force officer gets 18 months for bribery, cheating on taxes

By CAROL ROSENBERG | Miami Herald (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 28, 2016

MIAMI (Tribune News Service) — A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a retired U.S. Air Force procurement officer to 18 months in jail for cheating on taxes and taking bribes to help fix contracts for a Broward firm during a 2009-10 deployment to Afghanistan.

Under the scheme, retired Master Sgt. Trevor Smith, in his 40s, leaked confidential bid information to help Simplex Corp. win a U.S. military contract to lease Russian aircraft to the U.S. Air Force for training purposes during his yearlong tour with the Afghanistan NATO Training Mission. In exchange, he got $263,000 in kickbacks.

“He made a bad decision and he’s paying for it,” said Smith’s attorney, Gabriel Grasso, adding that in his 17 years in the Air Force Smith had “an exemplary record.”

“Now he’s paying dearly for it,” Grasso added. “Not only has he lost his security clearance, he can’t work in that business any more. He’s going to have to go to prison for 18 months.”

The scheme gave the contractor an unlawful competitive advantage, according to the Department of Justice.

Attorney Dennis Kainen said the case was related to a November guilty plea by Maxim Silinsky, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, to filing a false statement on his federal tax returns. Silinsky admitted to bribing federal government contractors and Smith to win a contract for his Simplex Corp., a long-established Defense Department contractor. In his plea agreement, Silinsky said the bribes included “payment and promise of future payments of a percentage of the overall contract awarded,” Silinsky said in his proffer for his guilty plea.

A court document filed in the Simplex case this week noted that Silinsky was entitled to a reduction of prison sentence for his cooperation. He had faced a maximum of three years in prison and fine of up to $250,000. His sentencing is scheduled Tuesday before U.S. District Court Judge William Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale. Smith was sentenced by Judge Beth Bloom in Miami.

“My client cooperated against Trevor Smith and did the right thing,” Kainen said by phone Thursday. “He agreed to cooperate from the beginning and he is remorseful for the conduct that led him to plead guilty. We certainly wish Trevor Smith well, but Mr. Silinsky pleaded guilty because it was the right thing to do.”

In addition to a possible jail sentence and fine, Kainen said, Silinsky has been “debarred from doing business” with the U.S. government. His firm also provides parts to aircraft, and had been doing business with the U.S. military for “quite a number of years,” he said. “The bribery was a very small part of his business.”

Smith, who lives in Las Vegas, retired from the U.S. military in 2012. His assignment to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan was under the umbrella of Operation Enduring Freedom’s Combined Security Transition Command.

A third man, Victor Villalobos, a federal contractor at Fort Rucker, Ala., was likewise charged in the case. Court records show he faces sentencing in Palm Beach before U.S. District Court Judge Daniel T. K. Hurley on Feb. 17.


©2016 Miami Herald

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