- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Two Defense Department contractors were arrested in New York City on charges of conspiring to steal information relating to contracts to supply fuel to department aircraft worldwide.

Also charged were two contractor firms and a third person for participating in the conspiracies, the Justice Department said yesterday.

In a three-count indictment returned Dec. 5 and unsealed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Christopher Cartwright and Paul Wilkinson were charged for their suspected roles in the conspiracies.

Along with Mr. Cartwright and Mr. Wilkinson, two affiliated companies — Prague-based Far East Russia Aircraft Services Inc. (FERAS) and the Isle of Man-based Aerocontrol LTD — also were charged in the indictment.

Mr. Cartwright and Mr. Wilkinson are U.S. citizens who have been living in Prague. A separate charge was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against Matthew Bittenbender of Baltimore, charging the same criminal offenses.

“These cases demonstrate that we will aggressively investigate and prosecute those who attempt to derail the efforts of the Department of Defense to obtain essential goods and services, such as aviation fuel, at competitive prices,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas O. Barnett, who heads the department’s Antitrust Division.

According to the indictment, Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Wilkinson, FERAS and Aerocontrol conspired with Mr. Bittenbender to defraud the United States, commit wire fraud and steal trade secrets. Mr. Bittenbender is a former senior contract fuel manager at Avcard, a division of Kropp Holdings LLC, a Hunt Valley, Md., company that provides fuel and fuel services to commercial and government aircraft.

Mr. Bittenbender is charged with taking confidential bid data and other proprietary information related to fuel supply contracts with the Defense Department from Avcard, and selling that information to competitors Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Wilkinson, FERAS and Aerocontrol.

In return, the indictment said Mr. Bittenbender received cash payments and a percentage of the profit earned on the resulting fuel supply contracts awarded by Defense. According to the charges, Mr. Cartwright, Mr. Wilkinson, FERAS and Aerocontrol used that illegally obtained information to bid against Avcard at every location where the companies were bidding head-to-head, thereby subverting Defense’s competitive bidding procedures for fuel supply contracts.

Ultimately, the indictment said, Avcard lost each of the contested bids, and Defense was deprived of its right to competitive bids.

The investigation was conducted by the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

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