Former State Department employee sentenced to prison for honest services fraud | USAO-SDNY

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Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that MAY SALEHI, a former employee of the State Department, was sentenced today to 12 months in prison for conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. SALEHI was a longtime State Department employee who was involved in evaluating bids for critical overseas government construction projects such as U.S. embassies and consulates. SALEHI gave confidential tender information to a government contractor and received $60,000 in bribes in return. SALEHI was convicted by U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff.

US Attorney Damian Williams said, “As an employee of the State Department, May Salehi was tasked with serving the public. Instead, she abused her position to line her pockets. Salehi disclosed and traded confidential information, corrupting the bidding process and receiving lucrative bribes in return. Thanks to our partners at the Office of the State Department Inspector General, Salehi’s crime of deception has been uncovered and Salehi has now been sentenced to prison.

According to the allegations in the information, court filings and statements made in court:

From 1991 to mid-2021, MAY SALEHI was an employee of the Department of State. For many years, SALEHI worked as an engineer in the Department of State’s Overseas Building Operations (“OBO”) division, which directs the global overseas construction program for the Department of State and the U.S. government community in the stranger.

In 2016, the Department of State issued a tender for a multimillion-dollar construction project known as the Compound Security Upgrade to be performed at the U.S. Consulate in Bermuda (the ” Bermuda project”). The bidding process involved the submission of blind, sealed bids from various bidders. Six companies submitted sealed bids, one of which was called Montage, Inc. (“Montage”).

SALEHI has been involved in the Bermuda project in several ways. Among other things, SALEHI chaired the Technical Evaluation Board (“TEP”) – a group of experts that evaluates the technical aspects of the bids, including whether they meet the State Department’s structural and security needs. For the Bermuda project, TEP determined that five bids, including Montage, were technically acceptable.

In September 2016, State Department employees responsible for evaluating the cost of bids gave these five bidders, including Montage, the opportunity to rebid, if they wished. Montage had two days to decide whether to submit a new offer. During this two-day window, Montage’s director, Sina Moayedi, contacted SALEHI by telephone to obtain confidential information on the relationship between Montage’s offer and those of its competitors. SALEHI agreed to meet Moayedi in person during the working day. In response to Moayedi’s inquiry, SALEHI told him that all five offers were low and his offer was the lowest of around $1 million. Moayedi said he would give SALEHI 1% of the contract value if he won; and as she walked away, SALEHI came up with a cover story stating, “I have rugs for sale.” SALEHI knew that it was illegal to provide this confidential bidding information to a bidder. After Moayedi received this inside information from SALEHI, Montage immediately increased its offer by nearly $1 million. In their revised bid to the State Department, Moayedi and Montage lied about why he had increased his offer by nearly $1 million, falsely claiming he had discovered ‘an arithmetical error’ in his estimates . Montage ultimately won the Bermuda project with a revised bid of $6.3 million.

In the months that followed, Moayedi provided SALEHI with a total of $60,000 in bribes, which he paid in three installments. By carrying out these bribes, Moayedi used intermediaries to hide the link between him and SALEHI. To conceal the true purpose of the bribes, as she had suggested, SALEHI gave Moayedi a Persian rug, providing it to a middleman who passed it to Moayedi. SALEHI did not report the $60,000 bribe payments on his taxes, his State Department financial disclosure forms, or his application to renew his top-secret national security clearance.

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In addition to her prison sentence, SALEHI, 66, of Washington, DC, was sentenced to three years of probation. SALEHI was also ordered to confiscate $60,000 and pay a fine of $500,000.

Sina Moayedi has been charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and major fraud against the United States. Charges against Moayedi are pending. To see 22 Cr. 188 (JSR).

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the Department of State’s OIG, special agents from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and the IRS-CI.

The Bureau’s Complex Fraud and Cybercrime Unit is handling this criminal case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Neff and Louis A. Pellegrino are charged with the prosecution.

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