Clint Gregory, a former California Department of Transportation senior engineer, was sentenced Thursday in Sacramento federal court to 6 1/2 years in prison for fraudulent manipulation of Caltrans contracts.
Gregory, 53, would have been sentenced to far less time in prison – perhaps as much as two-thirds less – had he not flopped so spectacularly as a government witness against two co-defendants.
Charges against co-defendants Siavash “Mike” Poursartip, owner of a Sacramento small firm that did business with Caltrans, and Sara Shirazi, who worked for the firm, were dropped in October after federal authorities decided Gregory had been lying to them for well over six years.
Poursartip, 62, and Shirazi, 58, were accused of conspiring between December 2004 and March 2009 to pay bribes to Gregory, who was accused of accepting those bribes. The trio were charged with rigging the state’s bidding and contracting procedures to benefit Infotek Associates, the business Poursartip founded in 1999.
In return for a payoff of leniency, Gregory began informing on his co-defendants a year before the three were indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2010. He immediately pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud based on payments totaling $196,209 from the state to what was purportedly a “straw bidder” fronting for Poursartip.
More than five years later, on Oct. 27, prosecutors dropped the charges against Poursartip and Shirazi.
The prosecutors disclosed how Gregory, in multiple interviews both before and after his guilty plea, identified bank records as evidence of three bribe payments to him from Poursartip and Shirazi.
But, according to the prosecutors, on Oct. 21, while they were preparing Gregory for the Nov. 9 start of the trial of Poursartip and Shirazi, he conceded to them that the money did not represent bribes.
In imposing the sentence Thursday, U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. found that Gregory had obstructed justice by making false statements to law enforcement.
In arguing for a prison term of four years and nine months recommended by a probation officer, Gregory’s attorney, Donald Heller, maintained the case presents an “extraordinary” set of facts in that his client’s obstruction “is not inconsistent with his long announced acceptance of responsibility.”
Defense attorneys Richard Pachter and Chris Wing, who represent Poursartip and Shirazi, respectively, contend in a court brief that, contrary to a bribery scheme, the evidence shows Caltrans routinely ignores or circumvents the state’s regulations governing contractual dealings with outside companies. The attorneys say their clients were drawn into these questionable practices simply by following Caltrans’ directions.
“The fact that Caltrans ... played games with its invoicing process may be distressing to an uninformed observer or to state taxpayers, but it is a simple fact that this is how Caltrans chose to do business,” the defense attorneys wrote in the brief.
Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger said in an email to The Sacramento Bee in November: “We take any allegations of employee misconduct seriously. We have fully cooperated with investigators since the onset of this case and continue to do so. However, since Mr. Gregory was terminated in 2010, we can’t comment on developments in this case.”
Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189