SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and two former Special Forces soldiers were indicted Wednesday in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme to win military contracts in Afghanistan.
The 72-count indictment was returned Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City.
The active Army Reservist indicted in the case was a procurement official who leaked bid information that allowed all three men to pocket $20 million from a series of contracts that grew to $54 million, U.S. Attorney David Barlow said.
David Young, 49, of Hernando Beach, Fla., vigorously denies any wrongdoing, said his lawyer, Brett Tolman, who insisted Young wasn't a procurement official for the Army, didn't leak bid information, had no ability to award the contract and performed no services for it.
Young made money on separate business ventures with one of the other defendants and had millions of dollars wrongfully seized by the federal government, said Tolman, a former U.S. attorney for Utah.
Also indicted was Michael L. Taylor, 51, of Boston, who formed the Massachusetts-based firm, American International Security Corp., which was awarded the contracts.
Barlow refused to say whether the defense contractor delivered on the Army services in Afghanistan, insisting the case was instead about the suspects using illegally obtained information to gain the contracts, not whether the services were performed.
Taylor's attorney, Steven Brooks, said the company performed the services it was paid for during more than three years until 2011, and that nothing illegal occurred.
"We think that factually the government is absolutely wrong, and we're going to fight this and intend to win. We have done nothing wrong except serve the interests of the U.S.," Brooks said.
He "absolutely denied" the allegations that the three men — all former Army Special Forces soldiers — pocketed $20 million for their personal use from the contracts. Young is the only suspect still actively serving as a reservist.
The government seized $6 million in cash from the defendants, along with 20 houses in Florida, Utah, Arizona and New Hampshire, said Paul Camacho, a criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS also seized luxury vehicles including a Jaguar and a Hummer, hundreds of gold coins, an airplane and a boat, he said.
"Our role was to follow the money, and that's what we did," Camacho said.
Court records show a third defendant, Christopher Harris, 48, of Lake Havasu, Ariz., helped the government build its case. The records indicate Harris managed affairs for the company in Afghanistan, where the contracts called for them to supply Afghan troops with training and equipment.
Court records say it was Harris' banking habits that opened the case for federal investigators three years ago. He made a series of withdrawals from a St. George, Utah, credit union for amounts just under $10,000 each. Harris told a bank teller he didn't want the government to receive automatic notice of higher withdrawals, according to an IRS affidavit.
Harris was arrested three weeks ago in Salt Lake City and indicted together with the other two on Wednesday. He was released after his arrest, but federal officials said Wednesday they had no information on his whereabouts. A phone number for Harris couldn't be immediately found.