Harford contractor convicted of defrauding U.S. government Bilked funds used to boost wife's singing career

April 16, 1997|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A federal jury convicted a Harford County defense contractor yesterday of bilking the government of more than $100,000 in false expense claims, a scheme that prosecutors said funneled money into his wife's fledgling country music career.

The jury deliberated about six hours before finding Robert David Leas, 49, of Edgewood, guilty of making false claims to government officials and obstructing a federal audit. His Edgewood fuel-tank storage company, American Construction Services, was also tried criminally and was convicted of the same charges.

Prosecutors said Leas had billed the government for tens of thousands in unallowable personable expenses, including a Pontiac Firebird, a 17-day cruise to Tahiti and child care. A federal auditor uncovered the expenses.

Leas also used taxpayers' funds he obtained from government claims to try to launch the singing career of his now-estranged wife, Alicia Faye Major, 31. He bought her a two-bedroom townhouse in Nashville, Tenn., paid $4,000 a month for her manager, purchased a tour bus for her band and hired a former drummer for Waylon Jennings to be her studio helper.

"We expect in this country that our contractors will be honest with the government, and in this case the government was lied to," Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara S. Sale told the jury before the verdict. "This case is about lies."

Leas will be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by Judge Andre M. Davis on July 18. His lawyer, Paula M. Junghans, said Leas likely will appeal the conviction.

Pub Date: 4/16/97

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