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Architect Gets 33 Months in Bribery Case

Monday, April 4, 2016

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A Virginia architect who was found guilty of using inside information to obtain contracts at a Veterans Affairs hospital will spend 33 months behind bars, according to federal prosecutors.

Mark S. Farmer, a former architect with Buffalo, NY-based CannonDesign, was convicted by a jury in August 2015 on one count of conspiracy, one count of violating the Hobbs Act, two counts of wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud and four counts of theft of government property, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio announced Wednesday (March 30).

taking bribes
© iStock.com / Kritchanut

U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi sentenced the architect to nearly three years in prison, fined him $12,500 and ordered him to forfeit $70,801.64, representing the amount he reportedly bribed the former director of the Cleveland and Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

He had faced a penalty of 21 months to six years in prison under a plea deal made in February.

In addition to the prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi fined Farmer $12,500 and ordered him to forfeit $70,801.64, representing the amount he reportedly bribed the former director of the Cleveland and Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Bribing VA Official

Farmer gave cash and gifts to William Montague, the former director, in exchange for confidential information about VA construction projects, law enforcement officials said. He admitted to knowing about $3.9 million in illicit deals gained by using the insider information.

Montague previously pleaded guilty to 64 counts related to his role in the conspiracy and faces four and half years in prison. He has yet to be sentenced.

Scandal Details

Farmer was employed at CannonDesign, an integrated design firm that performed work for the VA. He worked in several different capacities while at the firm, including associate principal.

Farmer and CannonDesign received VA records and things of value, including non-public information concerning the VA and streamlined access to public information concerning the VA. Montague had embezzled and stolen the information without authority from the VA.

Cleveland VA medical center
Cleveland VA Medical Center / va.gov

Montague served as director of the Cleveland VA Medical Center from 1995 until Feb. 3, 2010. On March 11, 2011, he began working as director of the Dayton VA Medical Center, a position he held through Dec. 17, 2011, according to his indictment.

The scheme was used to give Farmer and CannonDesign an advantage over other companies in the awarding and administration of VA business, according to court documents and trial testimony.

He was indicted in October 2014.

“Bribing a public official to obtain internal government documents and information for a competitive business advantage is illegal,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Cleveland Office. “The FBI will continue to root out corruption at all levels.”

Gavin McClaren, U.S. VA OIG, Resident Agent in Charge, Cleveland, added: “This prison sentence shows VA contractors will be held accountable for defrauding our nation’s veterans.”

Damaged Career

Prosecutors had pushed for a higher sentence, noting that Farmer “had warning flags [and] had the ability to stop, but instead he barreled ahead,” according to a local report on the sentencing.

Cleveland.com reported that Farmer’s attorney had argued for a lower penalty because his client’s career had been irreparably damaged by the case.

Attorney John Mitchel said Farmer is “beating himself up as much as anybody.”

“I’ve lost almost everything except my family, and I have set a very poor example for them,” Farmer said, apologizing for his actions.

The architect will be outlawed from bidding on federal projects and lose his architecture license, the report said.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Antoinette T. Bacon and Paul Flannery following an investigation by the FBI and United States Department of Veterans Affairs—Office of Inspector General.

   

Tagged categories: Architecture; Business matters; Criminal acts; Design; Ethics; Government contracts; Health Care/Hospitals

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