Warrant Affidavit Shows How Easy It Is To Bilk The Government Out Of Excess Equipment
from the BUILD-YOUR-OWN-WAR-AT-HOME! dept
Seamus Hughes, the Deputy Director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, happened across an extraordinary story — told in warrant affidavit form — of a man who faked up a research lab and started scoring himself truckloads of free equipment from the US government.
According to the allegations in the warrant [PDF], Patrick R. Budic discovered a nifty way to exploit government excess equipment giveaways, utilizing a nonexistent company to make off with nearly $11 million in equipment ranging from GPS units to aircraft radios to hospital beds. The figure might have been much, much higher. The affidavit shows Budic tried (but failed) to acquire aircraft on more than one occasion.
The setup echoes the sting operation the Government Accountability Office performed as part of its investigation of the Defense Department’s 1033 program. The GAO set up a fake law enforcement agency and was able to obtain over $1 million in excess military gear before wrapping up its investigation. In that case, there appeared to be almost zero follow-up by the agencies in charge of disbursement. No one called. No one visited the fake address to verify the fake law enforcement agency’s existence.
Some of that appears to have come into play here. Budic — along with David G. Rosseau, a US Navy engineer — allegedly set up a fake nonprofit called Northridge National Laboratories (NNL) in Wyoming. According to the state’s Department of State, Wyoming does not engage in much regulation of registered nonprofits. No follow-up was done to ensure the nonprofit actually existed and the only verification the state required for its nonprofit status was… the declaration it was a nonprofit on the registration paperwork. However, the principal address for NNL was Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Budic lived.
Budic also set up a for-profit company, PMR Research, and got it registered with the Government Services Administration’s (GSA) award management system.
Using these two companies and some allegedly false claims about being a Defense Department contractor, Budic went to work. He began exploiting the GSA’s surplus property program, which allows government agencies (at all levels) and their contractors to obtain excess equipment for little to no cost.
It all began to fall apart when Budic started thinking big. He ran into problems trying to acquire a Learjet. Closer vetting apparently begins when the requested property runs into the millions of dollars per unit. The specialist assisting Budic couldn’t find anything verifying Budic’s claim NNL was a Defense Dept. contractor “working on top secret research.” Budic admitted NNL wasn’t a federal laboratory “yet,” but was “on its way” to becoming one. “This is how you get there,” he told the specialist.
Actually, this is how you get got.
The GSA Inspector General stepped in and made a recorded call to Budic. Budic claimed he needed the aircraft for Defense Dept. research, claiming he had research labs “all over the place,” but principally operated out of Wisconsin.
Following that, Budic was interviewed by an undercover GSA agent and a Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) agent. Budic thought he was there to complain about the holdup on his aircraft order. The story started to change the more Budic talked. The million-square-foot lab Budic said NNL already owned in his earlier phone call became a lab NNL was trying to acquire. Asked where all the government equipment he already had obtained was, Budic said some was in Wisconsin but the rest of it was in California.
Based on this information, the agents were able to locate the Wisconsin storage unit. Talking to the unit’s owner, the GSA discovered Budic was behind on his rent and was locked out. The owner also said Budic had “offered him a laptop” in an effort to get back into his storage space. According to the owner, the storage unit contained computers, a large printer, docking stations, more than a dozen servers, and “a lot of other stuff.”
Undeterred by his inability to score an airplane, Budic next tried to acquire a 27′ boat. He claimed in his request he was authorized to receive it under law and it would be used for “development projects pertinent to national security.”
As the investigation continued, Budic became more evasive. He refused to divulge the location of his apparently fake lab, citing national security reasons. He did the same when asked for proof of the lab’s ties to the DoD. When asked where the requested aircraft was headed, Budic said operational security prevented him from speaking about it. Those asking questions were told to take it up with other agencies. Budic called someone “Colonel” to imply he was close to DoD officials but couldn’t provide a name.
The conversations — many of them partly-transcribed in the warrant application — are an amazing read. Budic dodged questions by stating he was on medication or replied with veiled threats more questioning would rain down DoD hell on the people standing between him and “his” aircraft.
Apparently, Budic was quite the bullshitter. For a brief period of time, he talked his way into office space on a military base. When not hauling away whatever the GSA would part with, Budic was going after the GSA for “unfairly” denying him millions of dollars worth of equipment, including a plane, a boat, and a $10 million supercomputer.
Among the things Budic was able to obtain were chemicals from a Defense Dept. chemical disposal facility, a seismograph from the Dept. of the Interior, and pharmacy equipment from Veterans Administration.
The entire affidavit reads like a spec script for an unmade blockbuster. Sadly, it also shows what someone can get away with using little more than some letterhead, a plausible backstory, and a decent knowledge of government acquisition programs.