Retired Air Force officer pleads guilty to bribery, faces 45 years


By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer | Published: July 12, 2014

A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to charges that include bribery and theft of government property.

John Norman Sims, 52, of Southern Pines, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida last week, according to court documents.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 23.

Sims is alleged to have conspired with two other men to defraud the Air Force of approximately $5.4 million worth of contracts while living and working in Florida.

Sims, a retired Air Force officer, served as a military contractor who acted on behalf of the Air Force from 2004 to 2007 and was then hired as a government civilian working as a supervisory intelligence specialist for the Air Force.

In those roles, he's alleged to have provided inside information to Ronald Benton Powers and George Guyton Cannady, government contractors who supported classified Air Force activities, according to court documents.

The crimes took place in Florida, where Sims lived before moving to Southern Pines.

Powers is a resident of Jacksonville, Florida, according to officials. Cannady lives in North Carolina.

Cannady agreed to a plea agreement in November, according to court documents. He agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government, bribery and theft of government property.

He faces 45 years in prison followed by nine years of supervised release and a $750,000 fine.

According to court documents, Sims accepted bribes from Powers and Cannady in return for steering valuable Air Force contracts to companies owned by the two men.

All three were once partners in the unnamed business, known in court documents as Company A.

The ties between the men were not discovered until the Air Force Office of Special Investigations began looking into the unlawful disclosure of contract acquisition information in 2009.

Sims and the two men were charged in a 34-count indictment last year, according to prosecutors.

As part of the plea agreement, Sims agreed to plead guilty to five of the charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, bribery, theft of government property, disclosing or obtaining contractor bid or proposal information, and possession or retention of information relating to national defense.

Most of the charges concern Sims' work in Florida but the latter charge relates to the 2012 discovery of 40 classified documents found in Sims' Southern Pines home.

The 634 pages of documents contained information "whose unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to national security," according to court documents.

Sims faces a maximum of 60 years in prison followed by 15 years of supervised release. He also could be fined up to $1,250,000.