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Ex-Air Force contractor accepted kickbacks

Associated Press / July 21, 2009

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PENSACOLA, Fla. - A former government employee pleaded guilty yesterday and agreed to cooperate in a criminal investigation of appropriations that members of Congress steer to defense contractors.

Mark O’Hair is the second defendant in the past week to begin cooperating with federal prosecutors who are looking into alleged wrongdoing by defense contractors with ties to Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha, Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

Last week, the former chief executive of a defense contractor with ties to Murtha pleaded guilty to soliciting kickbacks from a subcontractor in Pennsylvania.

In 2007, Murtha directed $4 million in federal funds to Richard S. Ianieri’s company, Coherent Systems International Corp.

O’Hair was program officer for an Air Force project underwritten with congressional appropriations to Coherent.

Yesterday in US District Court, O’Hair admitted that he failed to disclose that he was a director of a company that benefited financially from his work as a civilian program officer for the Air Force.

He pleaded guilty to making a false statement and engaging in a conflict of interest.

O’Hair faces up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for failing to list on financial disclosure forms that he was a director of Schaller Engineering Inc. The company received more than $200,000 in contracts while O’Hair was charged with awarding contracts for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle.