| U.S. Department of Justice
Kenneth L. Wainstein
United States Attorney for the
District of Columbia
555 4th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
|For Information Contact Public Affairs
Channing Phillips (202)514-6933
FORMER DEPT. OF EDUCATION PROGRAM SPECIALIST PLEADS GUILTY TO ACCEPTING A GRATUITY
Washington, D.C. - A former U.S. Department of Education Program Specialist, Ramon Rodriguez, has pleaded guilty to accepting $10,000 from the president of a company that had been awarded a contract from a Department of Education grantee to install computers at schools in California and Oregon, U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein, John Higgins, Inspector General for the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Education, and Joseph Persichini, Jr., Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, announced today.
Rodriguez, 76, of Alexandria, Virginia, entered a plea of guilty today in U.S. District Court before the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth to the charge of offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving a gratuity. Pursuant to the terms of the plea, Rodriguez could receive a maximum of two years of imprisonment when he is sentenced before the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth on October 20, 2006.
"There is no room in our government for those who abuse their positions for private gain," stated U.S. Attorney Wainstein. "By accepting cash from a private contractor, this public official compromised the integrity of the Department of Education's grantee contracting process and violated his duty as a public servant."
"Accountability applies to everyone," said John P. Higgins, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education. "We will continue to aggressively pursue those who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of our nation's students and taxpayers, especially those in a position of trust like Mr. Rodriguez."
According to the statement of the offense agreed to by Rodriguez and the government, between January 1, 2003 and July 1, 2005, Rodriguez was employed as an Education Program Specialist in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education's office in Washington, D.C. In his capacity as Program Specialist, Rodriguez was responsible for monitoring numerous grants worth millions of dollars awarded by the United States Department of Education to educational institutions that provide services to the deaf and hearing-impaired community. Grantees were required to provide project updates to Rodriguez and to obtain his approval for various aspects of their grant projects, including, in some cases, the expenditure of grant funds.
In November 2004, the Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General began investigating Rodriguez after receiving a complaint alleging that Rodriguez was attempting to influence a grantee to hire his girlfriend as an employee or consultant through a private company and that Rodriguez was friends with the president of this company.
Investigators subsequently learned that Rodriguez had tried to influence a grantee in California to hire his girlfriend and to enter into a contract for grant-related services with the private company. Rodriguez was the Project Officer in charge of reviewing the grantee's expenditures and ensuring its compliance with regulations.
In September 2005, Rodriguez agreed to speak to agents from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General and the FBI's Washington Field Office. Rodriguez told the agents that the private company's president had hired his girlfriend as the Research Director for a contract that the company had negotiated with the grantee in January 2005. Rodriguez stated that he had consulted with the private company in a "broad sense," providing the company's president with ideas for strategic planning, brainstorming, and marketing.
Rodriguez admitted that the company's president had told him that he would be able to pay Rodriguez for services he had provided over the past couple of years if the company received the contract with the California grantee. The company's president subsequently paid him $10,000 in cash in two separate installments between January and May 2005 for services Rodriguez had provided to the company over the past 25 years. The installments corresponded to the installment payments the company had received pursuant to its contract with the grantee.
Rodriguez admitted to the agents that he tried to shield the company's payments by requesting that he be paid in cash and not by check. Rodriguez stated that neither Department of Education officials or supervisors nor the grantee's officials were aware of the cash payments by the company to him.
In announcing the guilty plea, United States Attorney Wainstein, Inspector General Higgins, and Assistant Director in Charge Persichini commended the outstanding efforts of Special Agent Ronald Wormsley, Jr. of the Department of Education's Inspector General's Office and Special Agent Eric Parris of the Washington Field Office of the FBI. They also thanked Assistant United States Attorney Kim Herd, who prosecuted the case.