Former Navy captain draws jail for contracting scam

July 31, 1991|By M. Dion Thompson

A former U.S. Navy captain was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to 40 months in prison for conspiracy, bribery and obstruction of justice charges stemming from his dealings with contractors at the U.S. Naval Academy.

James E. Weston, who was the public works officer at the academy, is free on his own recognizance and will surrender to federal marshals on Sept. 9. In addition to the prison sentence, Judge John R. Hargrove ordered that Weston, 47, be supervised for three years after his release from prison and that he pay a $7,500 fine along with $350 in court costs.

Jane F. Barrett, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Weston, said she argued for Weston's imprisonment to highlight the need for "punishment and deterrence" and because Weston, a 1965 graduate of the academy, had sullied the academy's honor and violated the public trust.

From August 1985 to June 1989, Weston directed and approved renovation and construction projects at the academy. While there, he often pressured contractors and academy employees into buying Amway products. Employees of one contractor from whom Weston demanded merchandise and money in return for favorable treatment nicknamed the former officer "Captain Crook." That contractor received a $961,333 contract even though his bid was 55 percent higher than the government's estimate.

"You became intoxicated with Amway," Judge Hargrove told Weston yesterday. "You fell from the top, and the reason: greed, pure and simple."

At yesterday's sentencing hearing, Weston said he was sorry he got involved with one of the contractors but also said he was not guilty. Yesterday, Judge Hargrove said Weston's testimony "was so incredible and such a cock-and-bull story that nobody could believe it."

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