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Feds Arrest ‘Godfather’ of Contracts

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

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A Department of Defense employee and self-proclaimed “Godfather” of construction contracts at California's Camp Pendleton has been charged with extorting bribes for contracts, federal prosecutors announced.

Natividad "Nate" Lara Cervantes, 64, of San Diego, was arrested Thursday (March 28) on federal bribery charges, Daphne Hearn, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Diego Field Office, announced Monday (April 1).

Calling himself the "Godfather at Camp Pendleton," Cervantes is accused of using his position as supervisor of Camp Pendleton's Construction and Service Contracts Inspection Branch to extort bribes from businesses seeking to do business at the Marine base.

Natividad Cervantes

Natividad "Nate" Cervantes is accused of extorting bribes for contracts at Camp Pendleton in California.

Bugged and Busted

Cervantes was arrested after accepting $10,000 cash from an FBI cooperating witness at a business in San Diego. The money was a partial payment of a $40,000 bribe, officials said.

Earlier in the week, on March 26, the witness met with Cervantes and agreed to pay him $40,000 in cash in exchange for help obtaining a $4 million flooring contract that was to be awarded at the base in 45 days.

The first payment of $20,000 was to be made to Cervantes on March 28, with the remaining $20,000 to be paid when the contract was awarded, the complaint said.

When the witness met with Cervantes to make his first payment, federal agents monitored the meeting and recorded the conversation with a buttonhole recording device worn by the witness.

During the meeting, the two discussed the payment schedule and the source of funds for the bribe payments, among other things, according to the FBI.

After receiving the envelope containing $10,000, Cervantes was arrested by federal agents and booked into the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego.

Camp Pendleton

Federal prosecutors arrested Cervantes after a cooperating witness gave him an envelope with $10,000 in cash as a partial payment for a bribe to receive a $4 million flooring contract at Camp Pendleton, officials said.

Cervantes appeared Monday before a U.S. Magistrate Judge. As of noon PT on Tuesday (April 2), the Metropolitan Correctional Center's inmate locator showed that he had not yet been released.

The cooperating witness, who was not identified, is under investigation for allegedly engaging in kickback schemes, making false statements on federal forms, and other crimes, the San Diego Union Tribune reported. According to the complaint, the witness cooperated with the investigation to receive more lenient treatment, the newspaper stated.

Years of Bribes

The complaint alleges that Cervantes has been using his position to extort bribes since September 2008. He allegedly received thousands of dollars in cash and remodeling work on his downtown San Diego condominium.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California, San Diego, is leading the prosecution. The investigation was conducted under the FBI's public corruption investigative program.

Investigating agencies in this matter are: Naval Criminal Investigative Services; Internal Revenue Service; Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Service; General Services Administration—Office of Inspector General; Small Business Administration—Office of Inspector General; and the FBI.


Tagged categories: Criminal acts; Department of Defense (DOD); Enforcement; Government contracts

Comment from Mike McCloud, (4/3/2013, 7:43 AM)

California has a lot of suspicious activity going on.

Comment from Mark Puckett, (4/3/2013, 11:41 AM)

1 down 6 million to go

Comment from Jack Henley, (4/4/2013, 8:50 AM)

When I was much younger, the hand shake of a business man ment something, today, it means after the shake, go wash your hands. I would like to see the man do some hard time, no community service and time off for good deeds. J. Henley

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