A pair of men were indicted in San Diego Thursday for participating in a bribery scheme that resulted in more than $100 million in government contracts.

Former Naval Information Warfare Center civilian employee James Soriano and defense contractor Russell Thurston allegedly conspired to commit fraud to the tune of more than $100 million, according to an indictment brought by the U.S. Southern District of California.

The U.S. attorney’s office alleges that Soriano used his position to influence contract decisions that favored the company for which Thurston was working. He and his employees allegedly gave Soriano favors and gifts in exchange for contract sway.

Thurston and his subordinates allegedly gave Soriano free meals at restaurants and a ticket to the 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, as well as “jobs for a family member and friends,” according to a U.S. Justice Department release announcing the indictment.

The pair are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery, and making fraudulent and false statements in tax returns. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, according to the Feds.

Soriano worked at the Naval Information Warfare Center from 2006 to 2019, during which time he served as “contracting officer representative,” the release said. In that role, he was meant to ensure the integrity of contracting process.

“Soriano instead used his considerable influence to steer lucrative contracts to Russell Thurston of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, who was an executive vice president of a company vying for defense contracts with locations in Arlington, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina,” according to the release. “The company provided technical and consulting services in the information technology field.”

In order to hide evidence of the alleged fraud, Soriano and Thurston “would intentionally delete document properties on procurement documents drafted by employees,” according to the release.

Soriano, required by law to disclose yearly gifts as a government employee, also failed to report any such offerings from Thurston’s company. As a result, he also faces three counts of filing false tax returns.

“This indictment reveals callous greed at the cost of taxpayer dollars,” U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath said in a release announcing this week’s indictment. “This office will vigorously investigate and prosecute fraud that threatens public trust in our institutions.”

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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