Former State Dept employee sentenced to 7 years in prison for accepting bribes

“This is a tragedy for you, for your family, for the government."

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Convicted on 13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud, and making false statements, a former contracting officer with the U.S. Department of State was recently sentenced to 87 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. While employed by the State Department, the contracting officer accepted more than $500,000 in bribes in exchange for awarding multimillion-dollar contracts to the owner of a Turkish construction firm.

Between November 2012 and early 2017, U.S. State Department contracting officer Zaldy Sabino received at least $521,862.93 in cash payments from Turkish construction magnate Deniz Turkkan while Sabino supervised multi-million dollar construction contracts awarded to Turkkan’s business partners and as Sabino made over a half million dollars in structured cash deposits into his personal bank accounts. Sabino concealed his unlawful relationship by, among other things, making false statements on financial disclosure forms and during his background reinvestigation.

In late 2015, investigators found the suspicious cash deposits when Sabino was renewing his top-secret security clearance. Unable to explain the source of his unreported income, Sabino later admitted to lying about cash that he had carried home after a trip to the Philippines.

On Sept. 20, 2017, Sabino’s predecessor in the same position, Steven J. Graves, pleaded guilty to a two-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to defraud the United States and commit wire fraud and a willful violation of the conflict of interest statute. Graves was sentenced to serve 15 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady of the Eastern District of Virginia on January 19, 2018.

In April 2019, Sabino was named in a 17-count indictment including charges of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud, and making false statements.

“What were you thinking? How do you justify doing that?” U.S. District Judge O’Grady said Friday while sentencing Sabino to 87 months in federal prison. “This is a tragedy for you, for your family, for the government.”

Convicted on 13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud, and making false statements, Sabino was sentenced to 7 years and three months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.

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