MIAMI - A 31-year career employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) pled guilty today in federal court in Miami, to a charge of misprision of a felony in May 2005, following a joint investigation conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Criminal Investigation Division; Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS); U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division; Major Procurement Fraud Unit's Florida Resident Agency and U. S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Office of Investigations (ICE).
Gregory C. Wagner, 58, of Miami, Florida, pled guilty in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 4 misprision of a felony for having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, to wit: the corrupt giving, offering, or promising of money to a public official with the intent to induce such public official to act in violation of the lawful duty of such official in violation of Title 18, United States Code, section 201, concealed and failed to make known as soon as possible the same to any judge or other person in civil or military authority. He admitted his guilt before U.S. District Court Judge Alan S. Gold, who set sentencing for January 29, 2009, at 4:30 pm. Defendant Wagner faces up to three years' imprisonment on the charge, as well as a criminal fine of up to $250,000.
"ICE plays an integral role in identifying, investigating, and arresting those that have abused their positions of public trust and misused that trust for their own personal gain and enrichment," said Anthony V. Mangione, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami. "Unfortunately, Mr. Wagner, who had a high level government career position, violated the public's trust by using tax payer dollars for his own personal gain. ICE will continue to pursue those who misuse their public positions."
According to the criminal information filed in this matter and statements made in court, at all times relevant to the charge, Wagner, a career employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) assigned to the Jacksonville Area Engineer's Office, was given responsibility as Construction Representative and Construction Inspection Technician administering contracts in South Florida awarded by ACOE. His duties involved direct supervision and oversight of ACOE projects related to Everglades restoration, which is a multi-agency effort to restore and revitalize the Everglades.
As part of its contribution to the restoration effort, ACOE was directly and indirectly involved in the acquisition of land bordering Everglades National Park for conversion from their present uses, including farmland, into restored wetlands and flow-ways.
According to statements made in open court and Wagner's admission, monetary bribes were given, offered, and promised to Wagner with the intention of inducing him to act in violation of his duties of proper administration of the contracts under his supervision and the lands he was obligated to manage pursuant to his assigned duties. As part of its evidence, the government referenced an encounter this year between Wagner and a cooperating source, which was audio-taped, during which Wagner discussed details of the earlier leasing arrangement and accepted $11,000 in cash for having allowed private parties to farm on ACOE acquired property without legal authority and without disclosing those arrangements to his superiors. After being confronted by federal agents, Wagner resigned his position with the ACOE.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida R. Alexander Acosta stated, "When public servants break the law and use their official positions to line their own pockets, public confidence in the integrity of our government suffers. The U.S. Attorney's Office is committed to prosecuting and removing these bad apples so that public confidence can be restored."
"EPA is committed to assist in the restoration of the Florida Everglades," said EPA's Acting Special Agent in Charge Ivan Vikin. "Public employees who violate their public trust and break the law will be prosecuted."
Resident Agent in Charge Amie R. Tanchak, of DCIS southeast field office, added, "The DCIS will aggressively investigate and seek the prosecution of any employee who violates the public trust by abusing their position for financial gain. The DCIS will continue to play a vital role in the ongoing efforts to protect the Department of Defense from internal corruption."
Resident Agent in Charge Ferdinand Vazquez, of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, major procurement fraud unit, stated, "These are crucial times for all fraud agencies to work together and aggressively address any violations involving corruption of public officials and contractors. The Army CID Major Procurement Fraud Unit is committed to pursuing any and all violations of this nature to help preserve the integrity of the U.S. Army procurement process."
U.S. Attorney Acosta commended the coordinated investigative efforts of the special agents of the Environmental Protection Agency; the Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Command; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and officers of Miami-Dade Police Department Environmental Investigations Unit. As well, Acosta commended the Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville Area Engineer's Office, for their assistance and cooperation in the investigation of this matter.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.