An employee of a Hanford supplier pleaded guilty in federal court to a felony charge of concealing and failing to report kickbacks given to Hanford purchasers.
Skyler Hamm worked for his uncle, Shane Fast, who is accused of providing about $40,000 in kickbacks and gratuities to Fluor Hanford purchasers through Fast Pipe and Supply from December 2006 through October 2008.
Hamm was charged in late 2011 in Eastern Washington U.S. District Court with conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Act, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
However, in a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Washington, he pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony. It is punishable by up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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He agreed to pay restitution to the federal government, although the amount and any additional punishment will be determined by a federal judge at sentencing.
Fast, an unsuccessful Republican challenger to Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., in the 2010 primary, is accused of giving Seattle sporting event tickets, plane tickets and gift cards to Tri-City businesses to purchasers working for former Hanford contractor Fluor Hanford.
In exchange for the kickbacks, the purchasers would favor Fast Pipe as a supplier, the U.S. Attorney's Office alleges in court documents. The Department of Energy reimbursed Fluor Hanford for the purchases.
On Oct. 9, 2008, several purchasers received an email from Fast asking if they had any orders for his company. The next day one of the purchasers, Greg Gilbert, received a call from Fast offering two tickets to a Seattle Seahawks football game, which Gilbert declined, according to court documents.
Then Fast offered tickets to another Seahawks game, according to court documents. About a week later Gilbert received two tickets to a Seahawks game in the mail from "Santa" with Fast's return mailing address, according to court documents.
Gilbert reported to the DOE Office of Inspector General on Oct. 22, 2008, that he had been contacted by Skyler Hamm, according to court documents. He agreed to conduct a monitored phone conversation with Hamm and during the phone conversation told Hamm that he had been contacted by federal investigators requesting an interview.
Gilbert asked Hamm if Fast would back his story if Gilbert lied to investigators and said he paid for the tickets, according to court documents.
"Hamm told Gilbert that Fast would back Gilbert's story 100 percent and proceeded to explain to Gilbert how other Hanford site employees had also decided to lie to investigators by reporting that they had paid cash for tickets received by Fast," according to Hamm's plea agreement.
Hamm also said it was not necessary for purchasers to pay Fast for the tickets since there was no way to prove or disprove that cash was paid for the tickets, the plea agreement said.
Fast said earlier that he offered tickets and gift cards to his best customers, which he thought was OK. In some cases they called and asked for tickets, he said.
He has called the investigation a "witch hunt" and has said he typically submitted prices for items sought by purchasers and then might or might not be given the order.
Fast will go to trial on one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback act, seven counts of violating the anti-kickback act and one count of mail fraud.
Several Fluor Hanford purchasers have reached settlement agreements with the federal government, agreeing to pay amounts that generally range between $10,000 and $15,300.
Fluor Hanford also has settled with the federal government, agreeing to pay $4 million in the wake of both the kickback issue and also because several purchasers made hundreds of fraudulent purchases. Fluor has said it did not knowingly participate in the schemes.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org