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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit

Maryland man pleads guilty to obstructing investigations to obtain and maintain a government security clearance

BALTIMORE — Gurpreet Singh Kohli, 58, of Potomac, Md., pleaded guilty Thursday to obstruction of agency proceedings, in connection with false statements he made to investigators during his background investigation for a government security clearance. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office.

According to Kohli's plea agreement, from November 2002 through March 2011, Kohli operated NAVTEC, LLC from his residence and locations in India. NAVTEC was registered with the U.S. Department of State to act as a broker in the sale and transfer of U.S. manufactured defense electronics and related components. NAVTEC represented U.S. based manufacturers and suppliers of sophisticated defense electronics. The majority of NAVTEC's customers were Indian government military and defense-related agencies. Kohli was responsible for the day-to-day decision making and operations of NAVTEC.

From September 2003 through April 4, 2011, Kohli also held a full-time position with a defense electronics and weapons manufacturer based in Maryland, for which he was required to obtain and maintain a U.S. government security clearance. As part of his job, Kohli was involved in developing business opportunities with Indian military and defense-related government entities. Kohli did not reveal to his employer the full scope of his activities with NAVTEC, nor did he reveal his employment with the Maryland company to all of NAVTEC's U.S. based clients.

Kohli admitted that during two separate Office of Personnel Management (OPM) background investigations for the security clearance he needed as an employee with the Maryland defense contractor, he made a number of false statements and representations regarding his activities for NAVTEC and his contacts with foreign nationals. Specifically, Kohli minimized the nature and scope of his activities with NAVTEC and under oath denied that he had any established foreign business contacts or associations with Indian government organizations. Other false statements included that his contact with foreign nationals was limited to relatives in India; that his foreign business travel was limited to attending trade and air shows on behalf of the Maryland defense contractor and that his contact with a foreign government or its representatives was limited to business meetings in the U.S. on behalf of the Maryland defense contractor. During a follow-up interview with an OPM investigator March 9, 2011, Kohli falsely denied having any other employment or business ventures outside of his employment with the Maryland defense contractor.

Kohli admitted that he traveled to India periodically to meet with NAVTEC's Indian government clients and conduct NAVTEC business. Occasionally, Kohli was accompanied by representatives of the defense electronics manufacturers and suppliers that NAVTEC represented, as well as his son, who assisted with NAVTEC business.

On Sept. 7, 2010, Kohli was interviewed by HSI and FBI special agents in relation to his son's pending application for employment with the FBI. Kohli minimized his son's role with NAVTEC, his contact with NAVTEC's U.S. clients and Indian customers, and falsely stated that his wife ran NAVTEC. Kohli also lied about the purpose of his Indian travel, stating that his foreign travel was limited to matters involving his employment with the Maryland defense contractor and that he did not meet with Indian government officials.

Kohli faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison at his March 15, 2013 sentencing at 2:00 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Manuelian.