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4 accused of $20M kickback scheme

WASHINGTON — Two employees of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and two others were arrested Tuesday in a $20 million bribery and kickback case that prosecutors say helped pay for the purchase of more than a dozen properties, Rolex and Cartier watches, fancy sports cars and hotel accommodations, first-class airline tickets and a trove of other personal luxuries.

Prosecutors say the case may be one of the largest procurement fraud schemes in the nation’s history.

An indictment unsealed Tuesday includes charges of bribery, conspiracy and unlawful kickbacks. The two Army Corps employees, Kerry F. Khan, a program manager, and Michael A. Alexander, a program director, received kickbacks in exchange for directing government contracts to a subcontractor specializing in software encryption devices and other information technology, prosecutors say. The men had the authority either to order products and services through government contracts or to secure funding for projects.

Also charged are Khan’s son, Lee A. Khan, who prosecutors say controlled a consulting company with his father and also benefited from the scheme, and Harold F. Babb, the director of contracts for Eyak Technology LLC, a Virginia-based contractor that did business with the government and was the prime contractor for a five-year, $1 billion contract administered by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The scheme, which authorities say spanned roughly four years, involved phony and inflated invoices for government contracts and millions of dollars in kickbacks that were funneled through a network of shell companies in the United States and around the world.

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, the top prosecutor in the District of Columbia, said at a news conference that the indictment alleges “one of the most brazen federal procurement scandals in our nation’s history.”

“This scheme was staggering in scope,” he later said. “I think it surprised all of us.”

All four defendants appeared in federal court for an arraignment a few hours after their arrest. They wore streets clothes but with their feet shackled so they could only take tiny steps into the courtroom. Their attorneys entered pleas of not guilty on their behalf but said they hadn’t even had time to closely read the 42-page indictment.