Ex-NGIC employee pleads guilty

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In February 2006, Mitchell J. Wade pleaded guilty to influencing congressmen—most famously Randy "Duke" Cunningham—in order to procure contracts for his defense contracting firm MZM, Inc. As part of the plea, Wade also admitted to bribing Department of Defense (DoD) officials, including an employee of the local National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC).

On October 9 of this year, that official, Robert Fromm, pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest charge that originally stemmed from a contract MZM signed with the DoD in September 2002. In November 2002, the defense contractor opened a computer center in Charlottesville (in the UVA North Fork Research Park) for work on NGIC’s Facilities Infrastructure and Engineering Systems (FIRES) program. Specifically, MZM would provide a number of digital maps to the agency of buildings that reportedly would allow soldiers and planners to know details as specific as which way the doors opened and closed.

Mitchell Wade, founder of the defense contracting firm MZM, Inc., pleaded guilty in February 2006 to influencing congressmen. Now Robert Fromm, who worked at NGIC in Charlottesville, has pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest charge for inappropriately working with MZM.
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From early 2000 through the summer of 2004, Fromm was the program manager of FIRES. According to Wade’s plea, during the latter two years of this period he "unlawfully and knowingly combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed" with Fromm to acquire contracts for MZM related to FIRES. In exchange for his assistance, MZM offered monetary compensation, and also hired Fromm’s son in 2002, and, in July 2004, Fromm himself. During his eight-month tenure as MZM’s senior vice president, Fromm continued to work to acquire contracts for MZM by illegally communicating with DoD employees. MZM eventually received more than $10 million for its work on FIRES over a three-year period.

Like Wade before him, Fromm agreed to cooperate with any further investigation and so was only required to plead guilty to a reduced charge springing from "unlawful communications" with DoD officials regarding FIRES with the "intent to influence." Specifically, Fromm accompanied a DoD employee to a September 2004 Army briefing, developed the briefing himself, and explained FIRES’ funding for the program. A month prior, Fromm provided a DoD employee with "comments and suggestions" regarding the operation of FIRES. For this, he received a reimbursement for the incidental costs of approximately $400.

Fromm will be sentenced for a misdemeanor conflict of interest that carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $100,000. Because of the cooperation, Fromm only faces zero to six months and a maximum fine of $5,000. Sentencing is likely to take place early next year.

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