A pair of scam artists who were involved with a plan to bilk the government out of six million dollars, one of whom was a retired Air Force Colonel, will not be going to prison.
Instead both Col. Sidney Brandler, 74, and James McKinney were given sentenced of probation, today, for their role in a government fraud case that centered around military contracts to upgrade what was then Brooke Army Medical Center.
"I've lost many things," Col. Brandler told the judge. "I've lost the respect and trust of those closest to me."
McKinney broke down crying, explaining to the judge how he chose to ignore what were obvious conflicts of interest.
"The fact is, I was over my head," he blubbered. "I had no idea how to get out of my situation."
Both were involved with Engineering and Deployment LLC of San Antonio. To outsiders, it seemed to be a legitimate business that was bidding for lucrative government subcontracts, running cables and providing computer support. In reality, it was a shell company... and extra sub-contractor... used to overcharge the government to the tune of $6.5 million. The indictment, obtained by 1200 WOAI news, claims that Col Brandler and McKinney lied to keep legitimate contractors in the dark, even going to far as printing up fake invoices. The prime contractors then passed on the charges to the Air Force from July 2002 through 2008.
Even though both men faced prison sentences, the judge declined to have the handcuffs slapped on their wrists. McKinney promised a check for a little over $300,000, coming from the sale of his home. Col. Brandler worked with prosecutors, who built a case against two other defendants.
But the lack of a harsh penalty left Assistant US Attorney James Blankenship feeling frustrated. Speaking to 1200 WOAI's Michael Board, he worried that it sends the wrong message to military contractors.
"They decide what they do in the future from what they see happening in these courts," he lamented. "The word here, $6.5 million in theft is worth probation."
He expressed amazement that the military didn't bat an eye when millions of extra money was spent on the project.
"There is enough play here that someone can rake out $6.5 million and nobody notices. It's insane."