Two U.S. Department of Defense (“DOD”) contractors were arrested in New York City on January 6, 2008, and charged with conspiring to steal information relating to DOD contracts to supply fuel to DOD aircraft worldwide. Two contractor firms and a third individual are also charged with participating in the conspiracies. The Department said the conspiracies took place from about February 2005 to about July 2006.
In a three-count indictment returned on Dec. 5, 2007, and unsealed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Christopher Cartwright and Paul Wilkinson were charged for their roles in the conspiracies. Along with Cartwright and Wilkinson, two affiliated companies- Prague, Czech Republic-based Far East Russia Aircraft Services Inc. (“FERAS”) and the Isle of Man-based Aerocontrol LTD- were also charged in the indictment.
A separate charge was filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against a third individual, Matthew Bittenbender, alleging the same criminal conduct. Bittenbender resides in Baltimore. According to the indictment, Cartwright, Wilkinson, FERAS and Aerocontrol conspired with Bittenbender to defraud the United States, commit wire fraud and steal trade secrets.
Bittenbender was a former senior contract fuel manager at Avcard, a division of Kropp Holdings LLC, a Hunt Valley, Md., company which provides fuel and fuel services to commercial and government aircraft. Bittenbender is charged with taking confidential bid data and other proprietary information related to fuel supply contracts with DOD from Avcard, and selling that information to competitors Cartwright, Wilkinson, FERAS and Aerocontrol. In return, Bittenbender received cash payments and a percentage of the profit earned on the resulting fuel supply contracts awarded by DOD.
According to the charges, Cartwright, Wilkinson, FERAS and Aerocontrol subsequently used illegally obtained information to bid against Avcard at every location where the companies were bidding head-to-head, thereby subverting DOD’s competitive bidding procedures for fuel supply contracts. Ultimately, the indictment alleges, Avcard lost each of the contested bids, and DOD was deprived of its right to competitive bids.