Three civilian employees at Aberdeen Proving Ground received thousands of dollars worth of goods - including a computer and power tools - from a salesman in exchange for processing fake invoices for military equipment that was never purchased, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed yesterday.
The employees at Aberdeen Test Center - Douglas Atwell, 51, of Port Deposit; Gerard Yursis, 45, of Parkton; and Ellis Lonabaugh, age 52, of Elkton - were charged with conspiracy to defraud the government, bribery and theft of government property from the Army base.
The indictment was returned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore and unsealed yesterday after the arrests of the defendants.
Wayne Silbersack, 64, of Forest Hill, a salesman for Lawson Products, faces similar charges.
According to federal prosecutors, an investigation by the FBI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service found that Atwell, Yursis and Lonabaugh purchased equipment at inflated prices on behalf of the Army.
They are accused of buying the equipment from Silbersack between January 2003 and November 2004, according to court documents. Silbersack is accused of arranging for the invoices to be doctored, the indictment says, to induce the employees to cooperate and make the purchases from Lawson Products.
The 15-count indictment alleges that Atwell placed orders worth more than $400,000 on behalf of the Army through Lawson Products, which is based in Chicago. The deal enabled Silbersack to earn more commission and Atwell and his co-workers to receive items for their personal use, according to the indictment.
For example, an 8,000-watt generator was described as a metric nuts and washer assortment on an invoice sent to the Army. Often, the items purchased by the Army came with inflated prices and were delivered to the homes of the test center employees rather than the base, according to the indictment.
The items included a Dell computer delivered to Atwell's home address, golf balls falsely described as a "ball bearing assortment," and a shed at Yursis' home described as "con/mat tools."
For the shed, the Army was charged $8,250, while Silbersack paid $4,929 for it at Home Depot, court documents say.
The defendants appeared in federal court in Baltimore yesterday afternoon, prosecutors said, and were released pending trial. Reached at home, Silbersack declined to talk about the case. Attempts to reach the other defendants were unsuccessful.