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U.S. Navy Contracting Officer and IT Exec Charged for Bribery Scheme

Gavel

Published Mar 11, 2024 3:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Justice Department has charged a U.S. Navy contracting officer and a software executive with bribery over a scheme to steer lucrative contracts to a specific company.  

James Soriano, 63, was a civilian engineer and project leader at the Naval Information Warfare Center in San Diego. According to prosecutors, he strayed from his role as a neutral arbiter and began to tilt the scales in favor of Russell Thurston, 51, then an executive with a defense technology firm headquartered on the East Coast.  

According to the indictment, Thurston and his subordinates gave things of value to Soriano, including free meals and jobs for Soriano's friends and family. One of these friends appears to have held her job without performing any responsibilities, and gave half her salary to Soriano in the form of a monthly cash payment, prosecutors alleged. This amounted to a matter of about $2,000 per month. 

In return, according to charging documents, Soriano allowed Thurston to draft the procurement documents for competitive contract tenders. In this manner, Thurston's company won a major contract worth up to $300 million, and Soriano proceeded to approve about $100 million worth of work under the terms of the agreement. 

Both men are charged with bribery. Soriano was also charged with three counts of filing false tax returns, as he did not declare the illicit cash that he was receiving from his friend as income, prosecutors said. 

“Using a position of public trust as a means to fraudulently grant access to federal programs for personal gain will not be tolerated,” said the Small Business Administration's Western Region Special Agent in Charge Weston King.  

“Using a position of public trust as a means to fraudulently grant access to federal programs for personal gain will not be tolerated,” said SBA OIG’s Western Region Special Agent in Charge Weston King. “Our Office will remain relentless in the pursuit of fraudsters who seek to exploit SBA’s vital economic programs. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and commitment to seeing justice served.”