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01/18/2011

Former ICE contracting officer sentenced to 6 months in prison

NEW YORK - David Balgobin, a former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contracting officer was sentenced to six months in prison on Jan. 18 for awarding three Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contracts to companies he controlled.

Balgobin pleaded guilty on Jun. 17 to an Information charging him with one count of procuring contracts in which he had an undisclosed financial interest. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.

According to documents previously filed in Manhattan federal court and statements made during the case, since December 2001, Balgobin was employed by ICE. In 2006, he was promoted to mission support specialist in the Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) office in New York which is responsible for housing ICE detainees in removal proceedings.

In that capacity, Balgobin authorized the ICE ERO field office to enter into contracts for certain goods and services.

As a result of an investigation prompted by the concerns of the Office of Acquisition Management, the DHS Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) determined that Balgobin was an authorized signatory on the checking accounts of three companies that had contracts with the ICE ERO field office. These companies were: Countrywide Office Solutions, which provided courier services; Aroma Scientific Corporation., which provided janitorial services, and Aromed Corporation, which provided clothing for ICE detainees.

DHS OIG agents subsequently interviewed Balgobin, who acknowledged that he was the sole contracting officer at the ICE ERO field office, and stated that his wife ran the daily operations of Countrywide Office Solutions, Aroma Scientific Corporation, and Aromed Corporation.

Balgobin admitted that all three companies provide goods and services to the ICE ERO field office, which is the companies' sole client. He stated, in sum and substance, that he had a conflict of interest because he was not supposed to have a "government-business relationship" with family members.

Balgobin also admitted that he never disclosed a conflict of interest with Countrywide, Aroma Scientific Corporation, and Aromed Corporation, during the course of his employment with ICE or the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

In addition to the prison sentence, Balgobin was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and complete two years of supervised release. He was also ordered to comply with an agreement to forfeit $125,000, and a piece of property in the Poconos.