Alabama Political Reporter
U.S. Army Reserves Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Lamar Burnett was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to forfeit $4.4 million to the government for fraudulently supplying hundreds of thousands of Chinese-produced baseball caps and backpacks to the Army Recruiting Command and passing them off as American-made products, in violation of his contracts and the Buy America Act.
U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, Defense Criminal Investigative Service Special Agent in Charge John F. Khin, and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent in Charge James T. Wallis announced the sentence.
“Securing the defense procurement base from fraud is important to American taxpayers and our national security posture,” Town said. “Today’s sentence sends a strong message that defrauding the United States carries a stiff penalty. Anyone seeking to lie, cheat, or steal from the government will find bed space reserved for them behind bars.
“Burnett, 50, of Madison, received millions of dollars under contracts with the Army stating he must supply promotional items for the Recruiting Command that were “100 PERCENT U.S. MADE.”
In April a federal jury convicted Burnett on three counts of wire fraud for using his Huntsville-based company, Lamar International Inc., in the scheme to defraud the Defense Department on three contracts, worth $6.2 million, between 2005 and 2009. U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Blackburn sentenced Burnett and ordered him to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term.
“In concert with our partner agencies, DCIS aggressively investigates fraud and corruption that undermines the integrity of Department of Defense programs and contracts,” Khin said.
Burnett received two contracts for baseball caps and one for backpacks, all intended as promotional items to give Army recruits. Burnett certified for all three contracts that he would meet the requirements of the Buy American Act, the Berry Amendment, and federal regulations that require the government to buy domestic products and materials, according to court evidence at trial.
The Buy American Act requires the federal government to buy domestic articles, materials and supplies, primarily to protect American workers and manufacturing jobs. The Berry Amendment prohibits the Defense Department from buying clothing, fabrics, fibers and yarns that were not grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the United States. The purpose of the Berry Amendment is to protect the viability of the American textile and clothing production base.
In 2005, Burnett supplied 209,706 baseball caps over three years and was paid $1.4 million. In his second contract in 2007, Lamar International supplied 509,043 ball caps. He was paid approximately $4 million. In 2007 he was awarded a third contract under which Lamar supplied 146,375 Army Combat Uniform backpacks. The government paid $1.1 million.
Along with the required compliance to the Buy American Act and the Berry Amendment, according to evidence, both of the 2007 contracts included a statement, in all capital letters, that the “PRODUCT MUST BE 100 PERCENT U.S. MADE.”
Instead of providing American-made products, Burnett negotiated and contracted with suppliers directly from China and with American companies who he knew were procuring their products from Chinese manufacturers. Burnett filled orders with Chinese-made products under all three contracts and hid their foreign origins by hiring workers on a cash basis to remove the Chinese labels and repackage the items, which he then sent to the Army Recruiting Command.
DCIS and Army CID investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys David H. Estes and Jonathan S. Keim prosecuted the case.