The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that former federal government contract officer Ronnie Simpkins, 67, plead guilty to accepting bribes from a company to file documentation allowing the company to maintain its GSA Schedule contract even though the company did not meet minimum requirements.
Simpkins, of Lusby Md., worked at the General Services Administration (GSA) from 1989 until May 2019. The criminal charges and subsequent guilty plea stemmed from a scheme in which he accepted bribes from government contractors from August 2011 to August 2017.
U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, Timothy M. Dunham, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Washington Field Office, Criminal Division, and Eric D. Radwick, Acting Special Agent in Charge, National Capital Region, Office of Investigations coordinated investigative and prosecution efforts in this case.
The charge carries a statutory maximum of 15 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Simpkins faces a likely range of 18 to 24 months in prison and a fine of up to $75,000. He also has agreed to pay approximately $12,108 in a forfeiture money judgement. The Honorable Trevor N. McFadden scheduled sentencing for March 18, 2020.
According to the government’s evidence, from 1989 until May 2019, Simpkins was employed by the GSA as a Contract Specialist, informally known as a Contracting Officer, in procurement related positions. Between August 2013 and May 2019, he worked as a Contract Specialist assigned to GSA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. During that time, he oversaw the information technology “IT 70 GSA Schedule” contracts.
An unnamed Northern Virginia company held a GSA IT 70 contract from 2006 through August 2017, despite never selling services or products through the contract or paying related required fees to GSA. The charges stated that during that time Simpkins received from that company’s personnel things of value, including cash, meals, and furniture, in return for, “…when the opportunity arose, using his official position at GSA to help that company through the performance of official action, aiding in the commission of a fraud on the United States, and acting or failing to act in violation of his official duty…”
Simpkins estimated meeting the company personnel at restaurants and private homes 15 times on evenings and weekend, outside of normal business hours. During those meetings he allowed the company personnel to pay for his food and beverages and accepted cash payments totaling approximately “thousands of dollars into the teens.” He also accepted furniture worth over $2,300.00. The total of the cash and material bribes exceeded $12,000.00.
In exchange for these things of value, Simpkins took official actions to review and approve the continuation of the company’s GSA Schedule contract even though the company failed to meet minimum sales requirements, he willfully failed to notify GSA as he was obligated to do and advised the company how to avoid contract cancellation.
While pursuing federal business is often complicated and burdensome, there is no reason to use illegal practices to win or maintain contracts. Cautionary stories like this of ethical lapses, personal ruin and public embarrassment underscore the need to maintain an ethical and legal mindset in the federal government marketplace.
For full case details visit: https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/pr/former-federal-government-contract-officer-pleads-guilty-accepting-bribes.
Gloria Larkin is President and CEO of TargetGov, American Express Procurement Advisor and a national expert in business development in the government markets. Email [email protected], visit www.targetgov.com or call toll-free 1-866-579-1346 x 325 for more information.