Crime - Sacto 911

Sacramento judge sentences businessman to 13 years in Travis AFB bribery case

A Romanian businessman convicted last year for bribing a contracting commander at Travis Air Force Base in what prosecutors called an 18-month conspiracy spanning two continents was sentenced Thursday to 13 years in federal prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Troy L. Nunley in Sacramento imposed the sentence on Dumitru Martin, 57, described in court documents as owning 45 percent of the stock in a Romanian company called Polaris M Holdings.

According to evidence presented at trial, Martin’s company paid $100,000 in an FBI sting as an installment toward a total bribery fee of $1 million. Government lawyers said in court papers that Martin’s company was attempting to procure a $10 million contract to provide storage containers and other products to the U.S. Air Force in Romania.

Nunley at the sentencing described bribery as “a worldwide epidemic.”

“What really happens is that we all lose,” Nunley said. “It creates a public perception that the playing field is not level, and if I don’t have a means (to pay the bribe), I can’t participate.”

“It’s a drag on the public consciousness, of public perception, integrity, of all the things we hold dear,” Nunley said

Jurors convicted Martin on Aug. 31 following a two-week trial. He was indicted in December 2015.

A sentencing memorandum filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd A. Pickles and Michael M. Beckwith said the bribery conspiracy came to the attention of federal authorities in 2014 through a confidential informant working for an FBI agent in Romania. The information was then delivered to the FBI field office in Sacramento that set up the sting, the memorandum said.

Martin’s actions, Pickles and Beckwith wrote in the memorandum, show “a clear pattern of criminality, motivated by unvarnished greed.”

According to the memorandum, Martin, who at the time was retired and living in New York, flew to California in October 2014 and met with a government operative at a hotel in Palo Alto. He met again with the operative and another California-based informant three months later in New York.

In September 2015, Polaris wired $100,000 to a bank account set up by the FBI, the memorandum said, and on Dec. 1, 2015, FBI agents questioned Martin in San Francisco and arrested him on suspicion to lying to them about whether he agreed to pay the commander the money.

With relatives seated in the back row of Nunley’s courtroom, an emotional Martin, who has been in custody for 16 months, apologized to the judge “for all the time you have spent with me on this case.”

“I am very sorry I was involved in this business, because I believed in people,” Martin said, his voice occasionally breaking.

He said he had retired from Polaris and was living “a good life” in New York when officials from the company “called me and asked me to go sign the contract.”

“I should have said no,” Martin said.

His lawyer, Malcolm Segal, said Martin suffers from a heart condition and also battled cancer into remission.

“He’s going to have a shortened life expectancy,” Segal said.

Martin’s involvement in the case was only “happenstance,” Segal said. He asked the judge to only sentence his client to 41 months. Prosecutors had sought a minimum of 15 years and eight months.

Martin’s brother, Gheorge, was the one who set the bribery into motion, according to the lawyer. Gheorge Martin, who apparently never left Romania, was not arrested or charged in the case, leaving his brother to try and make the deal with the Travis commander.

“This defendant was never on the horizon until he showed up to sign the contract,” Segal said of his client. “He didn’t rob anybody. He didn’t rape anybody. He didn’t murder anybody. He didn’t cheat any investors.”

Beckwith, one of the federal prosecutors, disagreed with Segal that Martin’s involvement was only “happenstance.”

“He was in from the beginning,” Beckwith said in court.

At one point in the development of the bribery transaction, when it looked like the deal was “going off the rails,” Beckwith said, it was Martin “who stepped in and made the contacts and got the scheme back on tracks.”

Three other co-conspirators pleaded guilty in the month before last year’s trial. Anamaria Cruceru, Constantin Schiller and Marcelle Bananga are each scheduled to be sentenced by Nunley on May 11. Cruceru and Bananga face maximum terms of five years each while Schiller’s sentence could be three years.

“The Eastern District of California has many military and other government facilities that obligate taxpayer money in the course of negotiating high-dollar contracts,” U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said in a written statement. “The sentence imposed today acknowledges the importance of rooting out corruption and protecting the integrity of the contracting process. My office is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who attempt to bribe public officials or who engage in other acts of public corruption that undermine the public’s confidence in the integrity of the government.”

Andy Furillo: 916-321-1141, @andyfurillo