A federal grand jury has identified the bribes an Oklahoma City defense contracting firm used to persuade military officials for biased treatment in the contract procurement process: strip clubs, softball uniforms, a wedding ring, a bass boat, and an inflatable football helmet, Stars and Stripes reports.
The defense company Aerochem, based in Oklahoma City, normally sells paint remover products and has been in business with the Air Force since 2004. It didn’t take long before Aerochem President Christopher Houston Hensley began bribing Shelvie Raymond Tabb, former depaint section chief of the 566th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at the Tinker Air Force base. His bribes, beginning as early as 2005, were wildly successful. If convicted of the indictment, Hensely may face a 15-year sentence just on the bribery charge alone and up to 10 additional years based on two counts of false statements to the government.
The charges came about after the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations collaborated with the FBI and U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command to get to the bottom of the case.
Hensely was active in funneling money to Air Force officials like Tabb in the form of $1,200 straight cash, so that Tabb could buy a wedding ring in 2007. They frequented strip clubs together, and Aerochem once spent a total of $7,500 to buy Tabb a bass boat. Incredibly, Hensley was also apparently aware that Aerochem gave Tabb $1,000 dollars to pay his taxes. Hensley spent $800 to buy girls’ softball uniforms for a team coached by Tabb.
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“We intend to enter a plea of not guilty and vigorously fight this thing,” said Hensley’s defense attorney, Mack Martin on Thursday, according to The Oklahoman.
Another Aerochem executive, Soney E. Beesley, didn’t even bother to fight the federal bribery charges, instead filing a guilty plea with the court.
Military officials didn’t get off the hook, either. Tabb already pleaded guilty last year, as did Richard Balderas Jr. from the Corpus Christi Army Depot, who was wired thousands and thousands of dollars of cash for a condo and an inflatable football helmet. Balderas also went out to strip clubs with both Beesley and Hensley. Along with Aerochem executive Beesley, Tabb and Balderas intend to work with prosecutors to bring Hensley down. And based on their admissions, a successful defense from Hensley is looking less and less likely.
“The public is reminded that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” said a statement from the Western District of Oklahoma U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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