Company owner convicted in bribery Man is convicted of conspiracy to bribe civilian on defense pacts

March 27, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

A federal jury has convicted the owner of a Silver Spring computer software company of conspiracy to bribe a Navy civilian official in return for influence and insider information on minority defense contracts.

The jury deliberated less than four hours Monday and yesterday before convicting Conrad Hipkins, 58, the owner and former chairman of Automated Sciences Group Inc. The company itself also was convicted on the charges, which were tied to $120,000 in bribes paid to Richard Ramirez, former director of the Navy's Small And Disadvantaged Business Utilization Office.

Bribery and racketeering charges against the defendants were dismissed before trial.

Judge Frederic N. Smalkin set sentencing for May 30.

Hipkins faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for authorizing the bribes to Ramirez.

Automated Sciences could receive a maximum $500,000 fine. Prosecutor Dale P. Kelberman said the company also faces possible suspension and debarment from bidding on defense contracts because of the convictions.

Key prosecution witnesses included Clarence Braddock, Automated Sciences' former president, who arranged most of the bribes; Louis J. Rainey, a marketing consultant who funneled them to Ramirez; and Ramirez, who created a sham company, Brandeis Corp., and two sham bank accounts to handle the bribe money.

Ramirez testified that he set up the bribery scheme with Rainey and Braddock. But he said Hipkins once complained to him about having to funnel the bribes through Rainey, who took a share of the money.

Braddock testified that Hipkins personally approved the bribes and that Hipkins knew about two initial $10,000 payments Braddock made directly to Ramirez.

According to other testimony, the conspiracy lasted from June 10, 1982, through January 1987. During that time, Automated Sciences got $8 million in Navy contracts for database software called "computerized logistical support systems."

Automated Sciences qualified for the non-competitive contract awards under the Small Business Administration's Section 8(a) program, which gives preference to minority-owned businesses. Hipkins, who owns all of ASG's stock, is black.

Defense attorneys acknowledged the bribery scheme between Ramirez, Rainey and Braddock, but said Hipkins didn't know about it and said neither he nor the company participated in it.

The defense also contended that Braddock set up the scheme for his own benefit.

Hipkins did not testify.

Braddock and Rainey pleaded guilty to related conspiracy charges last December and are awaiting sentencing.

Ramirez, who continued to influence minority contracts after he left government service in 1984, is serving prison term on conspiracy and tax convictions stemming from his acceptance of $180,000 in bribes from Wedtech and United Chem Con, another minority firm.

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