Hummingbird Aviation Owner Found Guilty In Helicopter Service Contract Fraud


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Hummingbird Aviation Owner Found Guilty In Helicopter Service Contract Fraud

By Shane Nolan

February 8, 2012 - Charles R. Priestley, 48, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, pled guilty and was sentenced for making a false, fictitious and fraudulent claim to the United States government.

The United States District Court in East St. Louis presided over the plea of guilty and sentenced Priestley to the serve 5 years of probation and to pay a fine of $4,000.00, a special assessment to the court of $100.00, and to pay restitution of $300,000.00 to the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM). Priestley was previously debarred from participation in federal contracts for six (6) years. 

Priestley operated Hummingbird Aviation, a company in Louisiana. He entered into a contract with the USTRANSCOM, part of the U.S. Department of Defense, and responsible for national and international military transportation for the United States.  

USTRANSCOM?s headquarters and contracting office is located at Scott Air Force Base. The contract allowed Priestley to provide helicopter service in Afghanistan, effective October 1, 2007. The contract provided that the United States would pay Hummingbird for the services of each helicopter at $298,790 per month. 

On December 12, 2007, Hummingbird sent a payroll summary to USTRANSCOM, which fraudulently requested reimbursement for the aircraft lease for October 1 through November 30, 2007, amounting to $300,000. At his plea, Priestley admitted that the claim for reimbursement was false in that Priestley had back-dated a contract with a third-party provider of helicopters which was provided to USTRANSCOM for payment for expenses not actually incurred.

Priestley admitted that this claim resulted in the fraudulent payment of $300,000.00 by USTRANSCOM. This investigation was conducted by the U.S. Air Force?s Office of Special Investigations and the Office of USTRANSCOM?s Fraud Counsel at Scott Air Force Base. 

"The outcome and judgment in this case are a testament to the accomplishments achieved with interagency cooperation," said Special Agent Nina Leggett, who is with OSI Detachment 301 at Scott AFB. "The outstanding working relationship between OSI, USTRANSCOM, and the Assistant United States Attorney office for Southern Illinois was essential in achieving an outstanding victory for the Air Force and speaks volumes for the efforts being put forth to combat contract fraud." 

"The agents assigned to this case took an aggressive yet patient approach, knowing up front this investigation would take time and require coordination at many levels," said Special Agent Mark Ferrero, the Det. 301 commander. "The results of this case are yet another example of the hard work and dedication portrayed by the agents investigating this case, and the work being done by agents throughout this command." 

"Putting a stop to fraudulent actions against the Air Force leads to a feeling of accomplishment," said Special Agent Jason Rosalis, who works with Det. 301. "To see all of your hard work lead to a felony conviction and an award of restitution to the government really lets you see how your efforts have paid off."

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