IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A former Air Force captain who oversaw contracts in Afghanistan has agreed to plead guilty to an influence-peddling charge stemming from his post-military employment lobbying for a vendor, a prosecutor says.
Adam Pudenz, 35, is charged with violating a law that bans former federal employees from trying to influence government action on matters in which they were involved, and with making a false statement. Prosecutors say he was paid more than $250,000 after leaving the service to lobby his former colleagues for payments on behalf of a military boot manufacturer that won contracts he had supervised.
Pudenz has agreed to plead guilty to the two felony counts at a hearing in Sioux City, Iowa, on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rich Murphy told a judge in a letter Friday. A public defender representing Pudenz declined to comment. A phone number for Pudenz, who has been free since his arrest, rang unanswered.
Sentencing will be at a later date. Both charges carry up to five years in prison, but Murphy wrote that prosecutors have agreed not to advocate for a prison term or fine under a plea agreement in which Pudenz will forfeit a home in Carroll, Iowa, valued at $277,000.
Pudenz worked on contracts to purchase clothing, shoes and boots for Afghan military and police forces while stationed at Camp Eggers in Kabul from 2009 to 2010. Two of those contracts, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, went to Kabul Milli Trading Co.
After leaving the Air Force in January 2011, investigators say Pudenz represented Kabul Milli during several meetings about payments with the Air Force officer who had taken his job. He also represented the company during meetings with another employee, including one in which he sought an outstanding payment of $780,000, and repeatedly emailed U.S. government officials seeking payments for its work, they say.
A criminal complaint filed when Pudenz was initially arrested and charged in 2013 shows the company paid him $247,000 for six months of consulting work. Pudenz told investigators that was a retainer, and that he had an agreement to submit and track the company's contract invoices for $500 apiece, according to the complaint, which said he also consulted for a second vendor, Afghan Vision Group.
Pudenz will plead guilty to making a false statement for telling investigators in November 2011 that he did not discuss his employment with Kabul Milli until March or April 2011, after he had left the Air Force, Murphy wrote. In reality, Pudenz knew he had communicated with a company official as early as December 2010 and multiple times prior to March 2011, the letter says.
Investigators say Pudenz had sought guidance from Air Force officials in December 2010 about post-government employment restrictions, saying he was considering working as a consultant in Afghanistan to help clothing businesses become sustainable.
A letter warned Pudenz that he would be barred from accepting compensation from Kabul Milli under a statute that bans a government official responsible for a particular matter from "later 'switching sides' and representing someone else in the same matter." Pudenz has agreed to plead guilty to violating that law, Murphy wrote.
Pudenz used about $155,000 of his retainer to buy the home in Carroll, the western Iowa city where he graduated from high school, investigators say. He has agreed to vacate the home by April 1 and ensure the "property premises are clean and secure at the time the United States takes custody," Murphy wrote. Pudenz has already turned over three Afghan rugs to the government, the prosecutor added.