- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal judge Tuesday ordered a former District of Columbia employee facing corruption charges to remain jailed in a case that prompted his former boss to take a brief leave of absence as President Barack Obama’s computer chief.

Yusuf Acar, who was the acting chief security officer in D.C.’s technology office, is accused of defrauding the city through a sophisticated bribery and fraud scheme.

The allegations include billing the city for items that were never delivered and “ghost” contract employees who didn’t work. Authorities say Acar approved falsified bills and split the money with vendors who submitted them.

Acar’s boss, Vivek Kundra, was recently appointed to the White House post of chief federal information officer. Kundra was put on leave Thursday and was reinstated by the White House on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty has said Kundra was not suspected of any wrongdoing in the case. According to court records, Kundra once pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft in Maryland in 1996 when he was 21 years old. The White House called the theft a “youthful indiscretion.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola said at Tuesday’s hearing he was struck by a recorded conversation, cited in court documents, in which Acar, a native of Turkey, says he would “jump on the next plane, go to Turkey and disappear” to avoid arrest.

“It seems only fair that I should hold him to his word,” Facciola said.

Acar’s lawyer, public defender Dani Jahn, said her client was merely boasting and that he has strong ties to the Washington area, including four children. Jahn requested home detention for Acar.

Acar was arrested Thursday along with technology consultant Sushil Bansal, of Dunn Loring, Va., who was released last week but ordered not to conduct overseas financial transactions or leave the region.

The men are described in court documents as the “two primary participants,” in the alleged scheme, which prosecutors believe was carried out for years.

The total amount of money involved is not yet known. The allegations come after federal investigators uncovered a massive embezzlement scheme in 2007 in D.C.’s tax office.

In a court filing Monday, prosecutors urged the judge to keep Acar in jail, warning that “he has the motive, skills and wherewithal to flee and thrive on the lam.”

Acar recently gave his mother $100,000 to take back to Turkey and was preparing to smuggle an additional $200,000 with help from a friend who has a diplomatic pouch, which is immune from being searched, prosecutors said. Acar also was trying to set up several foreign bank accounts.

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Associated Press writer Michael J. Sniffen contributed to this story.

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