Builder jailed for FBI data centre contract bribes

Builder jailed for FBI data centre contract bribes


A Virginian businessman has been sent to jail for 18 months after bribing an FBI official for data centre building contracts.

Robert Bailey, 63, of Centreville, Virginia, was sent down and also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine for the crime. He will also have three years of supervised release when he gets out.

Acting US Attorney Rafael Gonzalez Jr. said of the outcome: “When private individuals perform contracts for the government they effectively become public servants who must uphold public trust.

“Bailey breached that trust and now faces the consequences of his actions. The court’s 18-month sentence sends the appropriate message to Bailey and other similarly-situated government contractors - take the public trust seriously or wind up behind bars.”

According to court records, in 2001, Bailey purchased L-1, a construction management and operations company located in Chantilly, Virginia. In 2008, Bailey became a business acquaintance of a Federal Bureau of Investigation employee when they worked together on an FBI construction project.

That FBI staff member was James Heslep, 52, of Gainesville, Virginia. He was jailed for 39 months for his part in the swindle last month. Heslep, who held the position of management and programme analyst, was responsible for managing construction and services contracts for FBI buildings across the country.

In 2017, the FBI broke ground on the construction of a data centre in Pocatello, Idaho. The project involved the construction of a two-building, 140,000 sq ft complex that would accommodate data halls and office space. The purpose was to consolidate multiple FBI data centres from across the country and improve efficiency and cyber security.

Heslep became the contracting officer representative for the project, with management and oversight responsibilities for construction.

Between 2016 and 2018, the court was told, Bailey and L-1 made payments and gave items of value to Heslep. These payments included 18 deposits totalling $120,000 into a bank account controlled by him.

From this account, he made payments on a personal loan, home mortgage, car, credit card and vacation travel costs, and other personal expenditures at retail stores - such as a pair of diamond earrings that cost $5,300.

In addition, Bailey and L-1 paid for Heslep to have a 50th birthday party in Dallas, Texas, including first-class travel, hotel accommodation and tickets to a Dallas Cowboys football game.

He was also provided with a beach house rental in Nags Head, North Carolina; first-class Amtrak train tickets; invitations to a L-1 company holiday party; and tickets to a Washington Nationals baseball game, among other things.

The total value of all these gifts and the bank payments was $128,128. The payments and gifts were in return for building contract work.

Benefits to Bailey included Heslep seeking and receiving authorisation for around $16,000 monthly living expenses from the FBI to Bailey for L-1 employees who stayed at Bailey’s house instead of a hotel; and Heslep soliciting and including Bailey’s edits in the statement of work to a $12.2 million construction and services bridge contract that L-1 won.

Heslep also convinced his FBI superiors to pay L-1 for its work on the bridge contract at higher Washington, DC metropolitan area labour rates, rather than lower Idaho labour rates.

The Pocatello data centre was opened by the FBI in 2019.

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