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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — A Northern California man was sentenced to prison last week over a scheme to defraud the government of Afghanistan on a multimillion-dollar U.S. energy contract.

In a news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said that Saed Ismail Amiri, 38, of Granite Bay was given 15 months in prison Tuesday after previously pleading guilty to a single count of wire fraud.

Amiri lived in Irvine, in Orange County, in 2015 and 2016, where he sometimes owned and sometimes worked for Assist Consultants Inc. as a senior consultant. He was charged with fraud for submitting falsified documents to Afghanistan’s then-government in order to fraudulently have a chance at winning a contract to build an electrical grid in the war-torn nation.

In January 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development authorized Afghanistan’s national power utility, Da’ Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat — also known as DABS — to seek bids on a U.S.-funded contract to build five power substations. The bidding was restricted to companies with experience working on at least two electric substations of at least 220 kilovolts.

Assist Consultants did not meet the requirements to enter a bid. Prosecutors said that Amiri and other employees at the firm schemed to submit a fake work history and fraudulent supporting documents in order to bid on the contract without meeting the standards.

The company told DABS that it had previously worked as a subcontractor on two substations for a Ugandan cement factory and a Nigerian textile company, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Prosecutors said that the textile company and the cement factory did not exist, and the prime contractor was a fictitious entity controlled by Assist Consultants.

In July 2015, Assist Consultants entered a bid to DABS of $112 million, undercutting competitors by more than $20 million. By February 2016, DABS was asking for supporting documents to prove eligibility.

Prosecutors said that Amiri sent emails to his co-conspirators suggesting that a trip to Uganda and Nigeria could be necessary to acquire falsified documents. He later sent DABS documents that were altered, including false documentation of subcontract work in Uganda, photos, bank records and a fake letter ostensibly written by a Ugandan government official.

Afterward, Amiri met with U.S. law enforcement at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, where he lied that he had only learned Assist Consultants entered a bid on the contract in the past month. Amiri later withdrew the firm’s bid.

In another interview with law enforcement, Amiri said another employee had submitted the false documents. Federal prosecutors said it was Amiri himself.

Amiri pleaded guilty to fraud in April.

©2021 The Sacramento Bee.

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

A Northern California man was sentenced to prison last week over a scheme to defraud the government of Afghanistan on a multimillion-dollar U.S. energy contract.
A Northern California man was sentenced to prison last week over a scheme to defraud the government of Afghanistan on a multimillion-dollar U.S. energy contract. (Dreamstime/TNS)

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