- The Washington Times - Friday, May 16, 2003

A California couple were sentenced yesterday in federal court in Virginia to two years probation, including six months home detention, in a scheme to cover up kickbacks — including home improvements and free furniture — in exchange for government contracts.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty said Michael A. Edwards and his wife, Lisa, both 32, of Garden Grove, Calif., also were ordered by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton to pay $26,462 in restitution to their former employer, TRW Inc.

The couple pleaded guilty in February to one count of knowingly engaging in misleading conduct toward another person with intent to prevent or hinder the communication of information to a law-enforcement officer relating to a federal crime.

TRW, at its Space and Electronics Division in Redondo Beach, Calif., worked on contracts for the National Reconnaissance Office. In October 2000, Mr. McNulty said, the FBI began investigating whether general contractors were violating the Anti-Kickback Statute by paying gratuities to TRW building managers as a reward for contracts.

TRW has since been bought by Northrop Grumman.

Mr. McNulty said the cost of the kickbacks was passed on to the National Reconnaissance Office.

Edwards and his brother, Timothy, were TRW building managers in Redondo Beach who hired Bob Parrett Construction Co. as a general contractor. In October 2000, FBI agents interviewed Timothy Edwards about gratuities received by TRW building managers from Parrett Construction, prosecutors said.

Alerted by Timothy Edwards of the FBI investigation, they said, Michael and Lisa Edwards “engaged in a scheme to cover up the fact that Michael Edwards, in violation of TRW policy, had received from a Parrett Construction employee substantial gratuities in the form of home improvements and furniture free of charge.”

Prosecutors said Michael and Lisa Edwards created five bogus receipts purporting to show they had paid the Parrett Construction employee $26,462 in cash for the home improvements and furniture.

In February 2002, when investigators focused on Michael Edwards, prosecutors said he and his wife delivered the phony receipts to an FBI agent, who forwarded them to Alexandria, where a grand jury investigation was under way.

Six weeks later, in a further effort to obstruct the investigation, prosecutors said Lisa Edwards in an interview with the FBI insisted the receipts were genuine and that cash payments had been made to the Parrett Construction employee in the amounts and on the dates shown in the receipts.

On Sept. 18, Mr. McNulty said, Marco Urrea, a Parrett Construction employee, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States for his role in the kickback scheme.

A month later, Jeffrey Bochesa, part owner and day-to-day manager of Parrett Construction, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States.

Mr. McNulty said Bochesa admitted approving the payment of gratuities or kickbacks to TRW building managers and that he had agreed to overcharge TRW about $1.3 million over five years. According to court documents, 94 percent of the overcharges were passed on to the National Reconnaissance Office.

On Jan. 21, Timothy Edwards pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice.

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