POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) – Former Federal Bureau of Investigation official James Heslep, 51, of Gainesville, Virginia, pleaded guilty to receiving a bribe by a public official and making and subscribing a false federal income tax return, U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis announced Monday.
Heslep pleaded guilty to a two-count criminal information filed in connection with his plea agreement.
Sentencing is set for March 17, 2021, before U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill at the federal courthouse in Boise.
In October 2020, Robert Bailey, 63, of Centreville, Virginia, pleaded guilty to paying a bribe to a public official. Bailey’s sentencing has been rescheduled to March 23, 2021.
According to court records, Heslep was a Management and Program Analyst with the FBI. In that position, Heslep was responsible for managing construction and services contracts for FBI buildings across the country.
According to court records, in 2001, Bailey, purchased L-1, a construction management and operations company located in Chantilly, Virginia. In 2008, Heslep and Bailey became business acquaintances when they worked together on an FBI construction project.
According to court records, in 2017, the FBI broke ground on the construction of a data center in Pocatello, Idaho (the Pocatello Data Center project). The Pocatello Data Center project involved construction of a two-building, 140,000 square-foot complex that would accommodate data halls containing computer equipment and office space. The purpose was to consolidate multiple FBI data centers from across the country and improve efficiency and cyber-security. In 2017, Heslep became the Contracting Officer Representative (COR) for the Pocatello Data Center project. In that position, Heslep had management and oversight responsibilities over the construction of the Pocatello Data Center.
According to court records, from 2016 through 2018, Bailey and L-1 made illegal payments, and gave items of value, to Heslep. These payments included 18 deposits totaling $120,000 into a bank account controlled by Heslep. From this account, Heslep made payments on a personal loan, home mortgage, car, credit card, and vacation travel payments, among other personal expenditures at retail stores, such as a pair of diamond earrings that cost $5,300. In addition, Bailey and L-1 provided the following items of value to Heslep: a fiftieth birthday party in Dallas, Texas, including first-class airfare, hotel accommodations, and tickets to a Dallas Cowboys football game; a beach house rental in Nags Head, North Carolina; first-class Amtrak train tickets; invitations to a L-1 company holiday party; and tickets to a Washington Nationals baseball game, among other gratuities. The total value of the unlawful payments and gratuities was $128,128.
According to court records, Bailey and L-1 made these payments, and gave these items of value, to Heslep with the intent to influence Heslep in performing official acts at FBI to benefit L-1 on the Pocatello Data Center project. These official acts included the following: Heslep seeking and receiving authorization for approximately $16,000 monthly per diem payments from the FBI to Bailey for L-1 employees who stayed at Bailey’s house instead of a hotel; Heslep soliciting and including Bailey’s edits in the statement of work to a $12.2 million construction and services bridge contract (related to the Pocatello Data Center project) that the FBI later awarded to S-1 (as general contractor) and L-1 (as subcontractor); and Heslep convincing his FBI superiors to pay L-1 for its work on the bridge contract at higher Washington, D.C. metropolitan-area labor rates, rather than lower Idaho labor rates. The Washington D.C. labor rates were approximately 30 percent greater than the Idaho labor rates.
“Public officials take a solemn oath not to exploit their office for personal gain,” said U.S. Attorney Davis. “Mr. Heslep disregarded his ethics training, purposely violated that oath, and compromised the FBI’s contracting process. This case stands as a cautionary warning for other public officials entrusted with influence over government contracts.”
The charge of receiving a bribe by a public official is punishable by up to 15 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine or not more than three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value, whichever is greater, disqualification from any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States, and up to three years of supervised release. The charge of making and subscribing a false federal income tax return is punishable by up to three years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, and up to one year of supervised release.
“We trust public officials to do their work with integrity and honesty. Instead, Heslep abused his position. He accepted bribes of cash, sports tickets, and other items of value in exchange for granting favorable contracting terms. The Office of the Inspector General will continue to root out this kind of behavior,” said Douglas B. Bruce, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General Denver Field Office.
This case was investigated by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation.