Ex-USAID contractor, wife sentenced in $1 million embezzlement

A former deputy director at a private contractor that did business with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was sentenced Friday to 51 months in prison in the embezzlement of more than $1 million from a program meant to address global health problems.

Mark Adams, 44, and his wife, Latasha Bell, 36, both of Fort Washington, each pled guilty in October before U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell in federal court in D.C. to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

Court records show the couple used money intended to save lives from terrible diseases to, among other things, renovate their home and buy luxury automobiles.

As part of the pleas, they agreed to pay full restitution. The government has seized about $49,000 in proceeds from the scheme.

Judge Howell called Adams‘ conduct “downright conniving” and particularly egregious given how the USAID money was supposed to be spent. She sentenced Bell to five years of probation, with the first six months to be served under home confinement.

The sentencings were announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen in Washington, and Michael G. Carroll, deputy inspector general for the USAID.

As part of the plea agreement, Adams and Bell admitted that Adams used his position as deputy director at a private USAID contractor to submit and approve false and fraudulent invoices.

Court records show he also admitted that his false invoices generated more than $1.08 million in fraudulent payments between 2006 and 2010. The bogus invoices claimed to bill for services from Bell and companies controlled by Adams’s friends, including co-conspirator Everett Lipscomb Jr.

But the records show that the work and services claimed on the invoices were not provided.

Adams and Bell received the payments either directly to Bell or indirectly, according to the records, when Lipscomb and others paid Adams and Bell part of the money they received. Adams and Bell also used fraudulent invoices to pay a home renovation contractor to complete an extensive renovation of their home.

In another instance, the records show, Adams and Bell received funds that they used to buy a luxury automobile.

Adams admitted that, by approving the bogus invoices, he caused the USAID contractor, and ultimately USAID, to pay these fraudulent bills out of money from USAID’s global health program. The program addresses major global issues, including HIV/AIDS.

“Unethical contractors who steal from the American taxpayer undermine faith in government and the accomplishment of important public priorities,” said Mr. Machen. “Today’s sentences should reassure taxpayers that we are doing all we can to defend government programs from theft, waste, and abuse.”

Lipscomb, 43, of Aliso Viejo, Calif., pled guilty in March 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and related forfeiture allegations. He admitted that he participated in embezzling about $386,279 as part of the scheme. In addition, he admitted that he set up a shell corporation and bank accounts to receive the fraudulent payments and sent them back to Adams.

He also acknowledged creating an e-mail account under a false alias to advance the scheme. Lipscomb was sentenced in November to 15-months in prison. He also must join Adams and Bell in paying restitution.

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