- Associated Press - Thursday, August 14, 2014

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A Chesapeake businessman pleaded guilty Thursday to giving $50,000 to a public official in an effort to steer Navy contracts toward his business.

Federal prosecutors say Timothy Miller, 58, was part of a wide-ranging bribery scheme involving the Navy’s Military Sealift Command that lasted five years and ultimately resulted in a businesses he co-founded being awarded $2.5 million in government contracts in 2009.

Court documents say Miller helped set up a government contracting company to provide telecommunications support to the Washington, D.C.-based Military Sealift Command. The command provides oceangoing transportation for the Navy and the Defense Department. It operates about 110 ships around the world.

The two public officials who worked for Military Sealift Command and accepted bribes have already pleaded guilty in the case, as has the co-founder of Miller’s company, Dwayne Hardman, and three others who worked at another company where Hardman previously worked. In total, prosecutors said the former Military Sealift Command workers accepted $265,000 in cash bribes and other benefits, They included hardwood floors, flat screen televisions, laptop computers, a vacation rental in Nags Head, North Carolina, a football helmet signed by Troy Aikman, and softball bats.

The other company Hardman used to work at had been awarded $3 million in contracts since the scheme began in 2004. Court records say Hardman and Miller appointed Miller’s daughter, who is of Portugese descent, as the majority owner so the company could qualify as a minority-controlled corporation that would make it easier for the Navy officials to direct work their way. During his hearing, Miller objected to the characterization by prosecutors that he owned the company.

Prior to his plea agreement, Miller was originally facing charges of bribery of a public official and conspiracy to commit bribery of a public official. As a condition of his plea agreement, Miller has agreed to forfeit $167,000.

Miller is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 7. He faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

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