Thursday, April 10, 2008, 4/10/2008 10:04:00 AM

Defense Contractor Employee Pleads Guilty to Stealing Aircraft Fuel Bidding Secrets

By Todd
A U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) contractor from Baltimore pleaded guilty today to conspiringto steal competitive information concerning contracts to supply fuel to DOD aircraft at locations worldwide, the Department of Justice announced. Matthew W. Bittenbender has entered into a plea agreement, filed inU.S. District Court in Baltimore, where he was originally charged on January 7, 2008.

According to the terms of the plea agreement, which is subject to court approval, Bittenbender has agreed to cooperate in the government's investigation. At the same time Bittenbender was charged, indictments were unsealed against two other individuals, Christopher Cartwright and Paul Wilkinson, and their affiliated companies, Far EastRussia Aircraft Services Inc. (FERAS) and Aerocontrol LTD, on related charges. The trials of Cartwright, Wilkinson and their affiliated companiesare scheduled for July 7, 2008.

According to the plea agreement, Bittenbender conspired to steal trade secrets from his employer Avcard, a division of Kropp Holdings LLC, and sell that information to his competitors, FERAS, and Aerocontrol. In return, Bittenbender received cash and a percentage of the profit earned on the resulting fuel supply contracts. According to the plea agreement,Cartwright, Wilkinson, FERAS and Aerocontrol, in turn, used that information to underbid Avcard at every location where the companies were bidding against each other. Avcard ultimately lost each of the contested bids. Aviation fuel is obtained by the DOD through the Defense Energy SupportCenter (DESC) which lets contracts for a variety of products. The fuel is delivered worldwide to locations, including Croatia, Bulgaria and Afghanistan.

Bittenbender pleaded guilty to conspiring: to defraud the UnitedStates; to commit wire fraud; and to steal trade secrets. A violation of defrauding the United States carries a maximum sentence of five years ofimprisonment and a fine of $250,000. A violation of conspiring to commitwire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. A violation of conspiring to steal trade secrets carries a maximum sentence of 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. The fines could be increased to twice the gain from the offense or twice the loss incurred by the victims of the crime.

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