A minority-owned Silver Spring computer software firm and its former chairman have been indicted in Baltimore on charges of paying $103,000 in bribes to a former Navy civilian official who already has been convicted in the Wedtech defense-contract scandal.
A grand jury in U.S. District Court returned the indictment yesterday against Automated Sciences Group Inc. and Conrad Hipkins, 58, of Silver Spring, who resigned Nov. 14 as the company's chairman. The document charges them with bribery, conspiracy and racketeering.
Prosecutor William K. Meyer also filed a criminal information that charged Clarence Braddock, 61, of Alexandria, Va., ASG's former president, and Louis J. Rainey, 61, a marketing consultant who lives in West Virginia, with one count of conspiracy to bribe Richard Ramirez, the Navy official.
Ramirez directed the Navy's Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Office from 1980 to 1984, and set up a dummy corporation, Brandeis Corp., which he used after that as a funnel for a stream of bribes from ASG, according to court papers.
Ramirez's Navy office influenced minority contract awards under the Small Business Administration's Section 8(a) program.
He is serving a year in prison on federal conspiracy and tax convictions that stemmed from his acceptance of at least $180,000 in bribes from Wedtech and United Chem Con, another minority firm.
The Baltimore indictment said ASG, Hipkins and Braddock paid Ramirez $20,000 directly and paid him another $83,000 through Rainey to provide inside information and steer software contracts to the Silver Spring firm. The company designs data-base software called "computerized logistical support systems."
ASG qualified for defense contracts on a non-competitive basis under the Section 8(a) program, which gives preference to minority-owned businesses. Hipkins, who owns all of ASG's stock, is black.
The indictment said the conspiracy lasted from June 10, 1982 through January 1987. During that time ASG received $8 million in Navy computer software contracts. The company paid Rainey $270,000 in commissions on three Navy contracts, and he allegedly funneled $83,000 of that to Ramirez.
Defense lawyer Michael Schatzow said yesterday that the charges against Hipkins "are totally without merit" and that his client "is confident he will be vindicated" in a trial.
Sources said Hipkins still owns all the company's stock, which has been put into a trust.
Bruce Baird, who represents ASG, would not confirm that, but said the criminal charges deal with past events, the company now is under new management, and Hipkins no longer has any control over the business.