Crime - Sacto 911

FBI sting leads to arrest on charges of bribery in military contracting

A Romanian national has been charged in Sacramento federal court with bribing an Air Force officer to obtain a $10.35 million military contract.

Dumitru Martin was arrested by FBI agents on Dec. 1 at the San Francisco International Airport after arriving on a flight from New York City. He had been asked by individuals posing as facilitators of the bribery scheme to come to San Francisco for a meeting.

His arrest culminated a 17-month FBI investigation using the two impostors as undercover operatives.

Martin’s company, Polaris M Holding, made a $100,000 down payment three months ago on what was ultimately to be a bribe of more than $1 million to a major in command of a contracting squadron at Travis Air Force Base who was cooperating with the FBI, according to a criminal complaint and an agent’s affidavit unsealed Tuesday.

The affidavit of FBI Special Agent Matthew Young says the bribe was to lock down a contract for Polaris to supply shipping and storage containers over a five-year period to U.S. forces at Mihail Kogalnice Air Base in Romania.

Polaris wired the money on Sept. 19 to a covert bank account set up by the FBI, and it was withdrawn as evidence on Oct. 14, the affidavit says.

“I initiated an investigation of the Martin family and others in July 2014,” Young says in the affidavit, although the Sacramento agent does not indicate what drew his interest to Martin. “While pursuing the investigation, I was made aware that Romanian law enforcement was investigating Polaris for corruption and paying bribes to Romanian city and state officials.”

Polaris, formed in 1998, is described on its website as one of the largest sanitation companies in Romania, serving numerous communities there.

The two undercover operatives first met with two Polaris representatives in Suisun City on Oct. 27, 2014, when a 10 percent “commission” was offered in return for a guarantee that a contract would go to Martin’s company, Young relates in his affidavit.

The four proceeded to nearby Travis, where they met with the contracting squadron commander, who insisted a company owner sign the contract and pay the bribe. That night, Martin flew to California to meet with the commander, Young further relates in the affidavit.

The agent goes on to describe a half-dozen more meetings over the next year in San Francisco; New York; Budapest, Hungary; and Sacramento, as well as emails exchanged among the principals. According to Young’s affidavit, the FBI has recordings of the meetings. The affidavit also quotes generously from emails.

After the scheme bogged down because of the Romanian corruption probe, the contract under discussion was awarded to another vendor, but communications later resumed in connection with fictional bidding on the container contract.

On Sept. 11, Martin and the commander signed a military supply contract at Travis along with two other contracts designed to conceal the bribe payments, according to the affidavit.

When Martin, 55, was met by FBI agents in San Francisco, he thought he was on his way to the next in the series of meetings involving him, other representatives of Polaris, the Air Force major at Travis, and the two individuals acting undercover. One of the latter two is aiming for leniency when he is sentenced for accepting bribes while a military contracting officer. The other was acting as a business person interested in securing Romanian government contracts in Romania.

Martin made an initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge in San Francisco on Dec. 2 and was ordered transported in custody to Sacramento, where he appeared on Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn K. Delaney.

He was back before Delaney on Wednesday for a bail hearing, at which Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Pickles argued for detention without bail and defense attorney John Balazs argued for release on bail with stringent conditions. The hearing was continued to Monday.

Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189