Army base civilian pleads guilty in purchasing scheme

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BALTIMORE — On paper, the Army was supposed to be getting “a ball bearing assortment” for $1,409.

It was bad enough that the order form marked up the price from $682.50. But there was something about the order that was even more in the rough: The money really was buying 420 golf balls for the personal use of a civilian employee at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. He later gave the balls to a charity golf tournament.

Douglas Atwell faces up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty in federal court yesterday to bribery in a scam to defraud the government.

Atwell, 51, placed orders in 2003 and 2004 with co-defendant Wayne Silbersack, a commissioned salesman for Lawson Products. The orders were for equipment adding up to more than $429,500 for which the Army paid, federal prosecutors said.

“It is disgraceful that a company salesman conspired with a government employee to engage in this scheme to defraud the taxpayers and line their own pockets,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said.

Silbersack, 65, who pleaded guilty Monday, also faces up to 15 years in prison on a bribery charge.

Silbersack, of Forest Hill, issued invoices that inflated prices and falsely described the items ordered by Atwell, prosecutors said. The scam concealed the use of government money to get items for personal use by Atwell and other government employees, prosecutors said.

Atwell, of Port Deposit, managed a “tool crib” at one of the Aberdeen Test Center buildings. He charged the items to his government purchase card.

By processing the invoices, Atwell received a Dell computer, which was falsely described in an invoice as “electrical assortment parts LP 5002.” It was marked up from $1,973 to $2,485.

He also received a shed, disguised on invoices as a “large hardware assortment.” It was marked up from $2,840 to $6,521.

Silbersack received more than $78,000 in commissions for sales to Atwell’s government credit card.

More than $288,000 worth of merchandise was delivered to Silbersack’s house or picked up outside the base, prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge William Quarles scheduled sentencing for Feb. 5 for Silbersack and Feb. 6 for Atwell at U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Two other civilian employees who have been charged in the case, Ellis Lonabaugh and Gerard Yursis, have court dates scheduled for next week.

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