- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 12, 2014

Federal prosecutors are recommending leniency for a former federal contractor who played an early but critical role in what became the biggest bid-rigging scandal in federal contracting history.

Nick Park, co-founder of Unisource Enterprise, pleaded guilty to two counts of bribery in U.S. District Court in Washington in June 2012, admitting that he’d made an Army contracting official a silent partner in his business in exchange for a $1.1 million contract.

But that deal would later become little more than a footnote in a larger contracting scam headed by former Army Corps of Engineers program manager Kerry Khan that involved more than a dozen corrupt contractors and government acquisition officials.

Khan has pleaded guilty and is serving 19 years in prison, while Park faces, at a minimum, nearly four years under federal guidelines. But in a memo Friday, prosecutors are recommending Park serve 18 months in prison. He is set to be sentenced on Oct. 21.

Park left the scam before it “experienced immense growth” under Khan after 2007, but he still played an important role in the early stages, according to documents filed by prosecutors on Friday.

As an employee at defunct Virginia-based contractor Nova Datacom, Park paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to Khan in the spring and summer of 2007. But uneasy with Khan’s increasingly large bribe demands, he left the company in August 2007 to co-found another contracting business called Unisource Enterprises.

But even after Park’s departure, Nova Datacom continued paying larger and larger bribes to Khan. And even though Park had left the company by then, he was the one who had made the “fateful introduction” between Nova Datacom’s chief technology officer, Alex Cho, and Khan, according to the memo from prosecutors.

Later, Cho would become a far more critical cooperator than Park, wearing an undercover wire that helped the FBI and other law enforcement agencies crack the case. Cho is awaiting sentencing.

Still, even after he struck out on his own at Unisource, Park would pay bribes to another former government contracting officer named In Seon Lim.

Lim, who worked in the Army, pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

Prosecutors say Park made Lim a silent partner in his company in exchange for confidential bid information, but finally “withdrew from conspiracy” in July 2009 after Lim sought cash payments from the company.

At least one thing set Park apart from other defendants who have pleaded guilty, according to prosecutors.

“Unlike every other defendant in the prosecutions related to this matter the defendant did not cease his illegal activities because of the government’s intervention,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Atkinson wrote in a sentencing memo filed in federal court on Friday.

“Instead, he had ceased those activities of his own volition over two years before law enforcement approached him in October 2011. Since agreeing to cooperate with investigators the defendant has corrected many of his wrongs.”

Aside from a substantial reduction in his sentence, prosecutors have recommended an added benefit for Park.

They want his sentence to be served concurrent to another federal prison term that Park already is serving in an unrelated bank fraud case.

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