Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ft. Riley Bribery; Kan. developer pleads guilty

Associated Press Writer

TOPEKA, Kan. - A Kansas developer admitted Tuesday he tried to bribe a member of a Junction City commission to get support to build new housing for Fort Riley soldiers.

David Ray Freeman of Lawrence pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Freeman's bid to develop the subdivisions were eventually approved, including one in which he reserved a nice lot in one of the subdivisions for himself.

The Army post, located 60 miles west of Topeka, will nearly double in soldiers to more than 18,500 by 2013. The Defense Department has asked surrounding communities to build additional housing, schools and other infrastructure to handle in influx.

"I gave money to a city commissioner of Junction City to influence projects that I was developing," Freeman told the court in Topeka.

Freeman, 45, has agreed to cooperate in the investigation of the bribes. Federal attorneys declined to comment about the scope of their investigation, if more indictments were coming or if any members of the Junction City Commission would be charged. The name of the commissioner hasn't been released, only referenced in court documents by a code name of "firefighter."

Freeman, who is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 29, faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine up to $1 million. He left the courtroom Tuesday without speaking to reporters.

Prosecutors say Freeman and other Lawrence residents formed Big D Development in May 2006, with Freeman as half-owner.

Within five months, the Junction City Commission approved two agreements worth a total of $12 million allowing Big D to build subdivisions to provide housing for the influx of soldiers.

The complaint said that in 2004, Freeman became friends with a Junction City commissioner, anticipating that the area might need to build more housing. By 2006, the complaint said, he was bragging to partners in Big D that he had a commissioner "in his pocket."

In 2005, the Defense Department announced plans to return the 1st Infantry Division headquarters to Kansas from Germany. Since then, new home subdivisions have been built in Junction City and Manhattan, the two largest communities near Fort Riley.

The complaint alleges that Freeman issued a $5,000 check in May 2006 to the Junction City commissioner's wife from the account of another business with which Freeman was involved. Then, in July, Freeman issued a second, $5,000 check to the commissioner from the account of a third business, the complaint said.

The city commission approved the development agreements in July and August 2006, according to the complaint, and Freeman later reserved a "choice" lot in one of the subdivisions.

In March 2007, the complaint said, Freeman had an assistant draw and cash a check for $9,000 and deliver the money to the Junction City commissioner at a rest stop between Junction City and Topeka.

It is against federal law to knowingly structure transactions to be less than $10,000 so that a financial institution won't report it to the government, which is required.

Much of the housing development remains unfinished. Because of the frequency of soldiers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past six years, many soldiers and their families haven't moved to the region and found permanent housing. However, the 1st Infantry Division is expecting another influx of about 2,500 soldiers in the coming months, which Army officials said should create a need for more homes and apartments


No comments:

Post a Comment