Fairfax Station man pleads guilty to bribery, wire fraud

justice-deptIn Seon Lim, a former contracting official for the U.S. Department of the Army, has pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from a scheme in which he accepted over $490,000 worth of benefits, including cash payments and vacations, from favored contractors. In return, he helped these businesses obtain millions of dollars in federal contracts.

Lim, 48, of Fairfax Station, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to three offenses: conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services wire fraud; bribery; and attempting to interfere with and impede tax laws. The conspiracy charge carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison, the bribery charge carries up to 15 years, and the tax charge carries up to three years. The charges also carry potential financial penalties. The plea agreement calls for Lim to pay restitution, including $250,000 to the Department of Defense and nearly $125,000 to the IRS. In addition, the plea agreement requires Lim to pay a forfeiture money judgment of $490,262. The Honorable Leonie M. Brinkema scheduled sentencing for Oct. 17, 2014.

Lim is the latest person to plead guilty in an investigation into domestic bribery, bid-rigging, and federal contracting. He has agreed to cooperate in an ongoing investigation. In addition to Lim, a total of 17 other individuals and one corporation, Nova Datacom, LLC, have pleaded guilty to federal charges.

“In Seon Lim, a former Army contracting officer, procured a half-million dollars in bribes in exchange for steering millions of dollars in Army contracts to corrupt businessmen,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. “Lim sold out the public trust for cash, vacations, and a Lexus. Today he joined 17 other individuals who have also pled guilty as part of this far-reaching bribery and bid-rigging scheme. The breadth of this investigation and prosecution demonstrates our unwavering commitment to holding crooked public officials and contractors accountable for crimes which threaten the very integrity of our system of government. I want to commend the outstanding work of the investigating agents and prosecutors who have worked so tirelessly on this matter.”

According to a statement of offense signed by Lim as well as the government, Lim was a public official until April 2012. The charges involve his activities as an assistant project manager and product director with the Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems, a part of the Army that provides infrastructure and informational management systems.

Until June 2010, Lim resided and worked in Seoul, South Korea. While in South Korea, his primary duties were to oversee and implement communications systems upgrades for the U.S. forces there, which included approximately 10 communications centers and various other special projects at military sites throughout the country. Among other things, Lim coordinated work on a major contract, which, in turn, had numerous sub-contracts.

From June 2010 until his resignation in April 2012, Lim worked as a product director at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Favorable action

In the statement of offense, Lim admits that he secretly used his official position to enrich himself by soliciting and accepting gifts, payments and other things of value from government contractors – totaling more than $490,000 — in return for favorable official action. Among other things, the statement of offense notes, Lim received payments personally and to accounts that he controlled; payments for travel, vacation, vehicles, cellphones and cellular service for himself and family members; ownership interests in two companies, and other benefits.

In exchange, Lim now admits, he provided favorable official action on subcontracts obtained and retained by the favored government contractors as requested and as opportunities arose. He also disclosed confidential bid information to the favored government contractors.

The indictment provides details about numerous contracts and payments. For example:

  • Nova Datacom: According to the statement of offense, two former employees of the Northern Virginia company—Alex N. Cho, also known as Young N. Cho, and Nick Park—paid Lim $40,000 in cash in 2007. In addition, Park paid for Lim’s travel, lodging, meals and entertainment during a trip to the Philippines in 2007, and Cho paid for lodging and a $1,000 casino chip during a trip later that year to Las Vegas. Lim, meanwhile, agreed to use his official position to recommend the company for a contract valued at nearly $330,000.
  • Avenciatech: According to the statement of offense, former officials of Avenciatech, Inc., a government contractor based in Annandale, Va., provided Lim with cash payments; payments for hotel stays for Lim and family members, including a trip to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas; payments to finance the purchase of a 2010 Lexus automobile, and payments for other things of value. One of the officials, Oh Song Kwon, also known as Thomas Kwon, also assisted Lim in obtaining financing for the purchase of a home in Fairfax Station, Va., where Lim resided following his reassignment in 2010 to a position at Fort Belvoir. Lim, meanwhile, assisted the company in obtaining more than $3 million in contracts.
  • UEI: Nick Park left Nova Datacom in 2007 and co-founded another government contractor, Unisource Enterprise Inc. (UEI), based in Annandale, Va. According to the statement of offense, in exchange for favorable treatment, Lim was given a secret ownership in UEI. Among other things, Lim provided Park with sensitive procurement information. He also assisted the company in obtaining a government sub-contract worth over $1.1 million.

Cho, Park, and Kwon are among those who earlier pled guilty to charges in the case.

In addition to pleading guilty to the conspiracy and bribery charges, Lim admitted that he failed to report the bribes he received on tax returns for the years 2007 through 2011. He also failed to keep records that would allow him to file accurate records for 2012 and 2013.

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.