A former Marine staff sergeant who accepted $150,000 from military contractors while deployed in Iraq was sentenced Friday to more than five years in federal prison.
Gilbert Mendez, 37, from Camp Lejeune, N.C., pleaded guilty last December to conspiracy to defraud the United States.
In handing down the 63-month sentence, U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino told Mendez that he "breached his honor and his integrity" and that his conduct impacted not only the Marine Corps but every U.S. taxpayer.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy emphasized that the defendant's criminal acts were an affront to the courageous and honest service of the men and women of our military, who distinguished themselves by carrying out their duty in Iraq under difficult conditions.
"Today's sentencing sends a strong message that corruption at all levels will be uncovered, prosecuted and punished," Duffy said.
According to court documents, Mendez was deployed to Camp Fallujah, Iraq, as a warranted contracting officer from January 2006 to January 2007. He was responsible for awarding and overseeing contracts for goods and services in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
According to court records and admissions in his guilty plea, Mendez abused his position as a contracting officer by obtaining at least $150,000 in cash and wire transfer payments from three foreign-owned military contractors doing business at Camp Fallujah.
Mendez received the money either directly or via his friend, Francisco Mungia, court records showed. Mungia was charged and convicted in Hawaii.
According to court documents, Mendez discussed with Mungia ways to bring money into the United States without being detected by military or law enforcement officials and agreed to deal only in cash in an effort to avoid currency transaction laws. Mendez agreed to share a percentage of the proceeds with Mungia that were collected from the military contractors on Mendez' behalf.
As detailed in court proceedings, Mungia flew from San Diego to New York City, on or about March 6, 2006, to pick up a $28,500 cash payment for Mendez provided by one of the defense contractors, "Company 1."
Company 1 also paid Mendez (via Mungia) an additional $60,000 via an international wire transfer.
During that same time period, Mendez awarded Company 1 approximately $1 million in Department of Defense contracts.
According to court papers, Mendez conducted similar transactions with two other defense contractors in 2006.
Mendez is the tenth Marine from Camp Fallujah convicted of corruption or fraud-related offenses during Operation Iraqi Freedom, authorities said.