Sarasota couple sentenced in bribery scandal


Sarasota couple sentenced in bribery scandal


Date: January 10, 2014
by: Alex Mahadevan | Digital Content Producer



A Sarasota man was sentenced to 15 months in prison and his wife to 24 months' probation for their roles in a bribery and fraud scheme involving Air Force contracts.

Sylvester Zugrav, 70, earlier pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit bribery and procurement fraud, and his wife, Maria Zugrav, 67, also of Sarasota, admitted to helping conceal the conspiracy. The Zugravs were charged in an October 2011 indictment along with 51-year-old Jose Mendez, a procurement program manager for the Foreign Materials Acquisition Support Office at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

The Zugravs owned Atlas International Trading Corp., a vendor licensed to contract for the sale of foreign materials. In return for bribes, Mendez gave Atlas favorable treatment in the procurement process, including disclosing government budget and competitor bid information that helped the company win contracts, according to the indictment.

Sylvester Zugrav sent nine FedEx packages to Mendez’s home between November 2009 and August 2011. Each package contained $5,000 in cash, except the last package, which contained $3,000 and was seized by law enforcement. Maria Zugrav assisted her husband and Mendez’s bribe scheme by limiting cash withdrawals from Atlas’s bank account to not more than $5,000 to avoid scrutiny by banking officials and law enforcement.

Mendez, , was charged with conspiracy, bribery and procurement fraud. He pleaded guilty to all charges and agreed to give up more than $180,000 he received in the scheme. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 29.

Payments were made via FedEx to Mendez’s home, in person and by electronic wire transfers to a bank account in Mexico in the name of Mendez’s cousin.

Additional reporting by the Deseret News.


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