A federal grand jury in Baltimore indicted a former public works officer with the U.S. Naval Academy yesterday on charges that he used his position to ensure favorable treatment of an Annapolis-area contractor in return for more than $20,000 in cash and merchandise.
James E. Weston, 47, a retired Navy captain who lives in Henderson, Nev., was charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and five counts of bribery in the 14-page indictment. The seven charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.
The U.S. attorney's office also charged Eugene E. Hook, a former civilian employee at the academy, with one count of conspiracy yesterday, alleging that he acted as an intermediary between Mr. Weston and the developer, Carroll R. Dunton, owner of Dunton Contracting Inc.
Hook, 67, of La Vale, Allegany County, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge yesterday in U.S. District Court as part of a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney's office. Sentencing is set for January. The charge carries a possible four- to 10-month prison term under federal sentencing guidelines.
Jane F. Barrett, an assistant U.S. attorney, said Hook and Dunton are cooperating with federal investigators in the continuing probe of academy procurement practices by the FBI and Naval Investigative Service.
Mr. Weston, who has been described by government sources as the central figure in the investigation, could not be reached for comment yesterday. His wife, Mary, said they had been advised by their lawyer not to discuss the matter.
William M. Ferris, an Annapolis lawyer who represents the couple, said yesterday that he had not seen a copy of the indictment. However, Mr. Ferris said his client "maintains that he innocent of all allegations that we have up to this time been advised on."
Federal authorities claim that Mr. Weston solicited gifts and money in return for steering 40 government contracts worth $12.6 million toward Dunton Contracting between August 1985 and June 1989. During that period, Mr. Weston had the authority to direct and approve construction and renovation contracts at the academy.
Mr. Weston is alleged to have received more than $7,000 in appliances from Dunton, including a washer and dryer, air conditioners, a lawn mower, a lawn tractor, a dishwasher and a trash compactor.
Dunton is alleged to have rented a Lincoln Continental for Mr. Weston at a cost of $535.19 for four days.
Mr. Weston is alleged to have asked Dunton in January 1988 to help his wife with her Amway distributorship. As a result, Dunton gave Mr. Weston at least $12,780 worth of checks for which he did not receive any Amway products, according to the U.S. attorney.
The obstruction charge stems from Mr. Weston's alleged failure to comply with a grand jury subpoena. Certain Amway-related documents were uncovered when federal agents executed a search warrant at Mr. Weston's home in August, the government said.
Dunton, 65, pleaded guilty in July to giving illegal gifts to Mr. Weston and, in a separate case, to bribing Arthur G. Strissel Jr., former executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority. Dunton could receive up to 12 years in prison when he is sentenced on the felony charges in January.
Mr. Weston, a 1965 Naval Academy graduate, retired voluntarily from the Navy last October after four years with the academy and more than 20 years in the service.