Oregon defense contractor pleads guilty to bribery charge

AP News
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Posted: Apr 18, 2016 5:19 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon defense contractor acknowledged Monday that he bribed a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers program manager to secure $171 million in contracts over a decade.

The 73-year-old contractor, who goes by the singular name Sky, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy and could face a maximum of five years in prison at his Oct. 11 sentencing. Lawyers for both sides indicated a sentence of about two years is more likely.

Sky — who changed his name from William Hovelman — did not say much in court, beyond answering procedural questions from U.S. District Court Judge Marco A. Hernandez. He and his attorney, Michael Levine, declined comment outside the courtroom.

The judge gave Sky permission to make a planned trip outside the U.S.

Sky and his company, Sky Research Inc., have been under investigation since 2010. The Ashland-based firm specializes in aerial surveys of old military bombing and gunnery ranges to find weapons debris.

Court documents say Jerry Hodgson, a program manager for the Army Corps in Nebraska, rigged bids on nine contracts. In exchange, Sky provided him with cash, entertainment, trips and other perks, prosecutors say.

Hodgson has not been charged in the case and a phone number for him could not be found. Andrew Strotman, his attorney when the case became public in 2012, did not immediately return a phone message.

Thomas O'Hara, an Army Corps spokesman, said Hodgson was "let go" several years ago and declined further comment.

Affidavits filed to obtain search warrants in 2012 outlined much of the investigation. U.S. Army Special Agent Derek W. Lindbom wrote that an informant contacted the Army's inspector general in 2010 to report that Hodgson had returned contract bids to Sky Research with instructions on how to change the forms to win.

Hodgson told investigators he considered Sky a good friend and acknowledged vacationing with him, the affidavits said. Shown invoices from an Alaska fishing trip paid for by Sky, Hodgson said he paid him back in cash but couldn't remember from which account the money had been withdrawn.