Advertisement
News

Contractor charged with fraud He allegedly cheated nTC government to finance wife's singing career

In a saga with all the trappings of a country and western song, an Edgewood defense contractor is to be arraigned in federal court in Baltimore today on charges of defrauding the government and funneling more than $90,000 of the money into his wife's fledgling Nashville career.

In all, prosecutors say, Robert David Leas, 48, stole nearly $500,000, using some of the proceeds to help Alicia Faye Major, 30.

Advertisement

That money, the prosecutors say, paid for Major's two-bedroom Nashville townhouse, care for her young son, a $4,000-a-month manager and studio production help from a former drummer for country star Waylon Jennings.

Richard Albright, the Nashville producer, compared Major to contemporary country stars Lorrie Morgan and Shania Twain, saying, "She had plenty of talent, but not a lot of experience."

Advertisement

Authorities say the Nashville spending was part of a broad conspiracy to defraud the government that included having Major pose as a corporate executive to win contracts reserved for companies headed by women or members of minority groups.

According to two lengthy affidavits and search warrant applications obtained by The Sun:

Leas' company, an excavation business specializing in underground storage tanks, submitted to the government nearly $500,000 in claims for false expenses and funneled some of that money into Major Music Ltd., which was set up to promote his wife's career.

Leas fraudulently listed his wife -- who is of Native American descent -- as the owner and operator of his Pulaski Highway-based American Construction Services Inc., using the company's minority ownership to win $2.6 million in contracts from 1990 to 1995.

Leas told employees to sign or stamp his wife's name on documents submitted by the company and instructed her to sign documents as its owner and operator.

"Regrettably, defense procurement fraud is not unusual," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara S. Sale, who is prosecuting the case. "But this case has some unusual features."

Reached at his business in the 3000 block of Pulaski Highway this week, Leas declined to comment on the charges, saying, "I'm sorry, but I have nothing to say."

His lawyer, Paula M. Junghans, said Leas intends to "defend himself vigorously" in court. "He believes he is not guilty of the charges," she said.

Advertisement

According to the indictment, Leas' company handled the

removal and installation of storage tanks at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground and the U.S. Weapons Station in Colt's Neck, N.J., from 1990 to 1995.

The business came to the attention of authorities in 1994 after an inspector for the Maryland Department of the Environment found contaminated soil at a company work site at Walter Reed in Silver Spring.

During a subsequent audit, Leas allegedly told officials that his wife's apartment in an affluent neighborhood 15 minutes from Nashville was used for "the purpose of seeking contracts in Tennessee" and that Albright, the music producer, was a consultant on government contracts.

But according to court documents, the company's bookkeeper said Leas handled day-to-day operations and directed her to funnel government expense money into an account for Major's music promotion company. She also told investigators that Major had a Nashville apartment where she stayed while performing, the documents say.

Last week, Leas was indicted in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on fraud and conspiracy charges. He could be sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison and fined as much as $1 million if convicted.

Advertisement

Major's budding music career never got off the ground.

The pop-country singer hooked up with Albright in 1993.

"I just produced some tracks for her and helped her put together some musicians for a band," Albright said. "We got maybe seven or eight songs together for a demo."

Eventually, he helped Major and five band members organize a three-month tour of clubs in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and Maryland, including the Silverado on O'Donnell Street in Baltimore.

Albright said he could not remember how much he received for his services, but he said he was paid by checks from Leas' company. According to the affidavit, some checks were placed by Albright in a Nashville account and used to pay band members.

In 1994, Albright stopped working with the couple when they became dissatisfied with the progress of Major's career.

Advertisement

Unable to land a recording deal with a major label, Major left the Nashville apartment in April 1995, according to court documents. She and her husband later separated.

She moved to an apartment in Abingdon. In March of this year, Leas was arrested and charged with assault and battery when police responded to a complaint that he had slapped and grabbed Major at her apartment. A trial is scheduled for this month on those charges.

Brenda Cline, whose husband, Terry, managed Major from May to November of 1994 through their company, Artists Concepts, in Nashville, said it might never be known if Major could have become a successful singer.

Pub Date: 10/11/96



Advertisement