Ex marine academy official pleads guilty to accepting bribes

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Ex marine academy official pleads guilty to accepting bribes
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy has been the subject of a federal investigation into a sexual assault that allegedly occurred on a soccer team bus. (Photo from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy website)

A former United States Merchant Marine Academy official who managed building maintenance contracts at the academy pleaded guilty on Friday in federal court to accepting bribes from contractors.

John McCormick, 60, of Atlantic Beach, said in U.S. Eastern District Court in Central Islip  that he had “accepted money from contractors” to get them work at the Kings Point-based academy, according to Newsday.

McCormick served as a planner-estimator for the academy’s Department of Public Works, according to federal court filings. His job duties included “developing statements of work for construction related jobs at the USMMA” and “preparing independent government estimates for those jobs which estimates time and materials costs for the work.”

The filings also state that he could solicit and obtain quotes from potential vendors for work, which were then submitted to the academy’s Procurement Department, and could award work or make purchases of up to $2,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Burton Ryan said that McCormick received approximately $150,000 in kickbacks during a decade-long scheme where he received a 10 percent cut of what the contractors got paid, according to Newsday.

According to court filings, the investigation began after “numerous complaints” were made to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general’s office that McCormick “was increasing the cost of USMMA related contracts by fixing bids and steering USMMA contracts to contractors who would pay him cash ‘kickbacks.’”

One general contractor, the filings stated, told federal agents that he paid McCormick $1,000 in cash for arranging for his company to complete construction work at the academy. The payment was “recorded and surveilled” by federal agents.

The filings also stated that a painting contractor, who had been doing work at the marine academy since the 1990s, paid kickbacks worth  5 to 10 percent of an awarded contract “for more than a decade.”

The same contractor also told federal officials that McCormick advised him to submit three bids, one from his company and two “covering fake bids,” according to the filings.

Jeffrey Groder, McCormick’s attorney, told Newsday after the guilty plea that his client “accepts responsibility and hopes to put this behind him.”

McCormick is scheduled to be sentenced on May 19. He could face up to 15 years in prison.

In November, Frank DeCarlo, head of the academy’s carpentry shop, was arrested and charged with taking bribes from contractors for academy contracts.

DeCarlo, 66, of Franklin Square, allegedly took $47,230 from a contractor between October 2003 and March 2013, according to federal court filings.

DeCarlo was released on a $50,000 bond and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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