Hummingbird Aviation owner convicted of contract fraud against USAF

Hummingbird Aviation owner convicted of contract fraud against USAF

9-Feb-2012 Source: USAF

After being investigated by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations for suspected contract fraud, Mr. Charles R. Priestley, 48, pled guilty and was sentenced for making a false, fictitious and fraudulent claim to the United States Air Force.

The United States District Court in East St. Louis, Mo., presided over the plea and sentenced Mr. Priestley to serve five years of probation and to pay restitution of $300,000 to the United States Transportation Command, which is based at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. He was also ordered to pay $4,000 in fines.

“The outcome and judgment in this case are a testament to the accomplishments achieved with interagency cooperation,” said Special Agent Nina Leggett, OSI Detachment 301, Scott AFB. “The outstanding working relationship between OSI, UNSTRANSCOM, and the Assistant United States Attorney office for Southern Illinois was essential in achieving an outstanding victory for the Air Force and speaks volumes for the efforts being put forth to combat contract fraud.”

Mr. Priestley operated Louisiana-based Hummingbird Aviation. He entered into a contract with USTRANSCOM to provide helicopter service in Afghanistan, effective Oct. 1, 2007. The contract provided that the United States would pay Hummingbird for the services of each helicopter at $298,790 per month. On Dec. 12, 2007, Hummingbird sent a payroll summary to USTRANSCOM, which fraudulently requested reimbursement for the aircraft lease for Oct. 1 through Nov. 30, 2007, amounting to $300,000.

Protecting DoD dollars, regardless of the amount, is a critical part of what OSI does to help ensure the Air Force can meet its mission requirements.

“The agents assigned to this case took an aggressive yet patient approach, knowing up front this investigation would take time and require coordination at many levels,” said Special Agent Mark Ferrero, Det. 301 commander. “The results of this case are yet another example of the hard work and dedication portrayed by the agents investigating this case, and the work being done by agents throughout this command.”

At his plea, Mr. Priestly admitted that the claim for reimbursement was false in that he had back-dated a contract with a third-party provider of helicopters which was provided to USTRANSCOM for payment for expenses not actually incurred. Mr. Priestly admitted this claim resulted in the fraudulent payment of $300,000 by USTRANSCOM.

“Putting a stop to fraudulent actions against the Air Force leads to a feeling of accomplishment,” said Special Agent Jason Rosalis, Det. 301. “To see all of your hard work lead to a felony conviction and an award of restitution to the government really lets you see how your efforts have paid off.”

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