Shane Fast pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to a single felony count of violating the anti-kickback law after giving $40,000 worth of gifts to purchasers at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
Fast, a former congressional candidate, owned Fast Pipe and Supply in Pasco and gave gifts that federal attorneys said were intended to influence buyers to do business with him for almost three years.
During that time, the 14 Hanford purchasers who federal attorneys believe accepted gifts ordered $3.9 million in goods from Fast Pipe, according to court documents.
Fluor Hanford was reimbursed by the Department of Energy for items purchased for use at Hanford.
"I've said from the start that I gave tickets, gifts and gift cards to customers and never asked for anything in return," Fast told the Herald.
However, he was concerned he could not win the case at a trial because the federal government had to prove only that he knew what the gratuity limits were for purchasers and gave them gifts above that value, he said.
At least nine purchasers for former Hanford contractor Fluor Hanford have reached settlement agreements with the Department of Justice in the kickback scheme from November 2005 through October 2008.
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.
Purchasers had been trained on Fluor's rules, which prohibited accepting gifts from vendors worth $25 or more, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Items that were listed in the settlement agreements included tickets to Seattle Seahawks National Football League games and Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball games, sporting event parking passes and 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 two tickets to a Seahawks game in 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 containing Seahawks tickets for a December 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 Inspector General in October 2008 and said that he had given tickets to Hanford employees as gratuities, just has he had given gifts when he worked for previous employers, according to court documents.
Investigators quoted Fast as saying he knew giving the tickets was not "on the up and up" and that's why he put "Santa," on the return address. Although that was included in the plea agreement, Fast told the Herald that he did not say that.
"I never lied to anyone or for anyone," he said.
He voluntarily gave investigators a copy of his bookkeeping data, which showed that between November 2005 and April 2008, Fast spent more than $40,000 on sporting event tickets, gift cards and other gratuities that he listed as office expenses, advertising or donations, according to court documents.
In the plea deal reached between Fast and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Washington, additional counts of violating the anti-kickback act and mail fraud were dropped when he pleaded guilty to one felony count of violating the anti-kickback act.
The sentencing range will be calculated by the federal judge who presides at Fast's sentencing, which is set for June 26.
The maximum sentence is 10 years.
However, the Department of Justice has agreed to ask for a sentence at the low end of the range and will not oppose alternative forms of confinement, such as home detention.
Fast also has agreed to pay restitution, if the judge orders it.