In private business, it was OK if Shane Fast wanted to treat customers with tickets to sporting events and other gifts. But he found out it was a whole different ballgame when dealing with the federal government.
Fast, the owner of the now-defunct Fast Pipe and Supply in Pasco, was sentenced Thursday to three years probation and no prison time for giving out $40,000 in gifts to purchasers at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
He also must pay a $1,000 fine and $100 penalty assessment and serve 100 hours of community service with a not-for-profit agency.
Federal Judge Lonny R. Suko called the sentence fairly merciful. Fast could have served up to 10 years in federal prison. The Department of Justice asked for a sentence on the low end of the range.
His attorney, Sam Swanberg of Kennewick, said Fast, 53, was unaware of the differences in gifts to private and government customers. When dealing with the government, gifts larger than $25 are forbidden.
If this was a private business, this would have all passed muster, Swanberg told the Herald after the hearing. This is the same as an orthodontist sending a catered lunch to the dentist who sent referrals to him.
Fast pleaded guilty March 14 to one felony count. He admitted to giving gifts intended to influence buyers to do business with him between November 2005 and October 2008.
During that time, the 14 purchasers for former contractor Fluor Hanford who federal attorneys believe accepted gifts ordered $3.9 million in goods from Fast Pipe, according to court documents. The Department of Energy then reimbursed Fluor Hanford for items bought for use at Hanford.
On Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Duggan, addressing the court on speakerphone from Spokane, said that while Fasts actions didnt result in a direct loss to the government, Department of Energy officials likely would not have reimbursed Fluor Hanford for purchases made from Fast had they known about the gifts.
Swanberg said Fast has no prior criminal convictions, is remorseful and has attempted suicide as a result of the case. Suko added a requirement for a mental health evaluation to the sentence.
Fasts nephew and former employee, Skyler Hamm, previously was sentenced to three years probation, a $500 fine and $100 penalty assessment.
Hamm pleaded guilty to covering up a felony in Fasts case and was already serving a prison sentence on an unrelated heroin delivery charge when he was sentenced in May.
Fast said his profits were less than was typical in his business when he gave out the kickbacks. He said that would have been hard to pull off if he was getting a significant amount in return for his gifts.
Items listed as gifts in Fasts settlement agreement include tickets to Seattle Seahawks and Mariners games, as well as gift cards to restaurants and department stores. The kickbacks came to light when several Hanford purchasers received an email from Fast in October 2008 asking if there was anything he could bid on or help them find. The next day Fast called one of the purchasers and offered tickets to a Seahawks game that November, according to court documents.
That purchaser declined the tickets and reported the offer to his supervisor. He also turned over to his supervisor an envelope with tickets for a December Seahawks game.
The return address on the envelope said Santa and listed a Kennewick address linked to Fast, according to court documents.
Fast was interviewed by agents from the DOE Office of the Inspector General in October 2008 and said that he gave tickets to Hanford employees as gratuities, just as he had given gifts when he worked for previous employers, documents said.
At least nine purchasers for Fluor Hanford have reached settlement agreements with the Justice Department in the kickback scheme. They are making payments of up to $48,414 each to the federal government, although most are in the range of $10,000 to $20,000.
Statements from neighbors and one of the people whom Fast gave tickets to were included in a July 12 sentencing memorandum.
Shane Fast never asked me for anything in return when I accepted the tickets, said Patty Hall, who worked at Hanford for 30 years. He is very family oriented and would not intentionally do what he is being accused of.
Hall, a former Fluor Hanford materials purchaser, reached a settlement in the kickbacks case in March 2012. She agreed to pay the federal government $15,280. Along with tickets, she accepted a $100 Macys gift certificate. In 2007, she made average monthly purchases from Fast Pipe of $29,045.
The judge said he was hopeful that Fast, an unsuccessful challenger to U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, in the 2010 Republican primary, would reflect on what he did.
I doubt very seriously that any conduct of this nature will occur from the defendant (again), the judge said.
Fast Pipe is now out of business and Fast is trying to make a living selling used cars, he told the Herald after the half-hour sentencing hearing. He was thankful to the judge for the opportunity to stay out of prison.
After the plea agreement, it was kind of like a weight was lifted off my shoulder, and now that its done, its time to move on and try to live my life normally, Fast said.
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