HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A high-ranking Army Reserve officer was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison and ordered to forfeit $4.4 million for fraudulently supplying hundreds of thousands of Chinese-produced baseball caps and backpacks to the Army Recruiting Command and passing them off as American-made.
Federal authorities said Lt. Col. Frederick Burnett, 50, of Madison, Alabama, received millions under contracts with the Army stating he must supply promotional items for the Recruiting Command that were "100% U.S. Made." A federal jury convicted Burnett in April on three counts of wire fraud for using his Huntsville-based company, Lamar International Inc., in the scheme to defraud the Defense Department on three contracts, worth $6.2 million, between 2005 and 2009.
U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Blackburn sentenced Burnett to prison and ordered him to serve three years of supervised release after his prison term.
"Securing the defense procurement base from fraud is important to American taxpayers and our national security posture," U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town said in a news release. "Today's sentence sends a strong message that defrauding the United States carries a stiff penalty. Anyone seeking to lie, cheat, or steal from the government will find bed space reserved for them behind bars."
Town's office said Burnett had received two contracts for baseball caps and one for backpacks, all intended as promotional items to give Army recruits. He certified for all three contracts that he would meet the requirements of the Buy American Act, the Berry Amendment and federal regulations that require the government to buy domestic products and materials, according to court evidence at trial.
Instead of providing American-made products, however, Burnett negotiated and contracted with suppliers directly from China and with American companies who he knew were procuring their products from Chinese manufacturers. He filled orders with Chinese-made products under all three contracts and hid their foreign origins by hiring workers on a cash basis to remove the Chinese labels and repackage the items, which he then sent to the Army Recruiting Command.