- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Federal authorities yesterday sought to seize nearly $7 million and two houses in Florida that investigators traced to a bribery scam involving a federal security contracting company in Maryland.

Days earlier, Wachovia Bank and two other creditors asked a bankruptcy judge in Maryland to liquidate the Silver Spring-based USProtect Corp., citing more than $16 million in unpaid debts.

The company has not been charged with wrongdoing, but its former chief operating officer, Richard Hudec, pleaded guilty last year to tax evasion and concealing information about his criminal past.

Hudec had four prior felony fraud convictions and was released from federal prison in 2001, yet was able to broker more than $150 million in federal contracts from 2001 to 2004.

The Washington Times reported on Hudec in December in a story that raised questions about the lack of clear federal policies to ensure executives for government security companies undergo criminal background checks.

Phone calls to the company and an attorney were not returned yesterday or Monday.

Guards are having trouble collecting pay from USProtect, said a union official at the United Government Security Officers of America, which represents hundreds of security guards at federal courthouses.

“They got their paychecks and they were told almost immediately not to cash them,” said Donna Huff, international director of the union’s court security division. “It’s a big mess and a disgrace.”

She said guards are continuing to work, but under a new contractor hired by the U.S. Marshals Service.

The U.S. attorney’s office for Maryland filed the seizure papers in federal court in Greenbelt. The documents include an affidavit from an investigator from the Social Security Administration, which previously hired USProtect. The company also has held contracts with the FBI and the Air Force.

Prosecutors are seeking at least $6.9 million as well as a $250,000 home and a $1.5 million home, both in Naples, Fla. Though the owners are not named in the affidavit, the properties were purchased by Hudec and his wife, public records show.

Hudec, who is scheduled to be sentenced March 31, began working at the company in 2001 while he was on probation after pleading guilty to felony fraud charges in New Jersey.

He started as a consultant for the owner, Michael Holiday, a former Montgomery County police officer who has pleaded guilty to giving bribes to a former GSA contracting official for contracts. He, too, is awaiting sentencing.

The General Services Administration has rejected a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Washington Times seeking information about any proceedings to debar or suspend USProtect from federal contracts.

Charles R. Gray, suspension and debarment official for the GSA, cited an ongoing investigation by the agency’s inspector general in withholding the information.

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