Charges at Naval Academy outlined

November 15, 1990|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Sometime in mid-July 1985, federal prosecutors say, Eugene E. Hook called Annapolis contractor Carroll R. Dunton from the Naval Academy and told him that Capt. James E. Weston, the institution's new public works director, wanted a washer and dryer for his home on Upshur Road.

Dunton had a foothold on lucrative construction contracts at the academy. He sensed that mega-business might be at stake. He became a willing participant in the shakedown.

By then, Dunton knew how to play the game. In 1984, he had bribed Annapolis Housing Director Arthur S. Strissel Jr. with custom home plumbing to get a profitable gas meter contract at several city housing projects. Without a word of protest, he ordered the washer and dryer.

When the appliances came, Dunton paid the $1,087 bill and sent a crew to Weston's home to install them.

Weston also knew how to play the game, prosecutors allege. Soon after the delivery, the captain told Dunton that he had recommended the contractor for "preferred bidder" status for Navy contracts.

Dunton's reward came in December 1985, when Dunton Construction Co. was awarded a $2.76 million contract to overhaul the heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems at the Navy's Communications Research Facility at Chesapeake Beach.

But Weston apparently wasn't satisfied with the washer and dryer, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Over the next three years, Dunton, often at Hook's request, gave Weston other appliances and machinery, including five air conditioners, a dishwasher, a trash compactor, a lawn tractor and a generator that Weston and Hook used when they went hunting. Dunton also spent thousands of dollars of Amway products -- $7,795 worth on one occasion, $5,939 worth on another, and two security systems for $3,994 among them -- to stimulate the sideline business that Weston and his wife, Mary, began operating out of their Naval Academy home.

In all, the alleged scam cost Dunton $26,788.

Yesterday, a grand jury in federal court in Baltimore indicted Weston, 47, now retired in Henderson, Nev., on conspiracy, obstruction of justice and five bribery counts. The indictment says he steered $3.7 million worth of Navy contracts to Dunton, including the Chesapeake Beach job and a $961,333 heating and air conditioning contract for Rickover Hall classrooms, in return for the bribes.

Prosecutors Jane Barrett and Richard Kay said Dunton's Rickover Hall bid was 55 percent over the Navy's estimate. But Weston awarded it to Dunton anyway.

The obstruction of justice count alleges that Weston withheld Amway records that the grand jury subpoenaed March 2. The FBI seized the records at his home in August.

The indictment says Weston and Hook pressured contractors, consultants and academy employees to buy Amway products from Weston and his wife.

In a companion case, Hook, 67, of LaVale, the academy's now-retired civilian construction director, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count for soliciting bribes for Weston from Dunton.

Hook, for his role in the alleged scam, shared use of the generator with Weston on their hunting trips. Dunton also paid Hook's daughter $1,000 to type a report on one of the contracts, prosecutors said.

Hook is cooperating with prosecutors in a continuing probe of academy contract corruption and likely will be a trial witness against Weston. So will Dunton, who pleaded guilty to related criminal charges July 31.

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