Executive Agrees to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging

Monday, August 13, 2007
The vice president of a Virginia marine products company has agreed to plead guilty, serve a sentence and pay a criminal fine for his role in a conspiracy to rig bids and allocate customers with respect to marine products purchased by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, and other public and private entities, the Department of Justice announced.

William Alan Potts, a British citizen who is vice president of a marine products company located in Clearbrook, Va., entered a plea agreement in the U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Va. According to the one-count felony charge, Potts participated in a conspiracy between December 2000 and May 2003 to allocate customers and rig bids for contracts to sell plastic marine pilings. The conspirators discussed and agreed among themselves which of them would win contracts from the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security and others. The conspirators engaged in discussions by telephone, facsimile and electronic mail, the Department said.

Under the plea agreement, which is subject to court approval, Potts has agreed to cooperate with the Department's ongoing investigation. Potts' previous and continuing cooperation will be considered by the court at sentencing. His fine will be determined by the court. Potts is the fourth executive to agree to plead guilty in the Department of Justice's ongoing antitrust investigation in the marine products industry. Plastic marine pilings are substitutes for traditional wood timber pilings. They are often used in port and pier construction projects where durability and environmental considerations make them an alternative to traditional wood pilings. Potts' former supervisor, Robert Taylor, previously pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts, including charges that he participated in the plastic marine pilings conspiracy. Taylor agreed to serve time in prison and pay a $100,000 criminal fine. Other executives to plead guilty in this investigation have included Donald Murray, a former chief financial officer of Potts' employer, who agreed to plead to two felony counts. He was charged for participating in the bid-rigging and customer allocation conspiracy among manufacturers of foam filled marine fenders and buoys. Murray agreed to serve 18 months in prison and pay a $75,000 criminal fine. Gerald Thermos, a California executive, also pleaded guilty and agreed to serve four months in jail and serve four months in home detention, and pay a $50,000 criminal fine for his involvement in a related bid-rigging and customer allocation conspiracy. Taylor, Murray and Thermos have not been sentenced yet.

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division's National Criminal Enforcement Section, the DOD's Office of Inspector General, DCIS, and the U.S. Navy Criminal Investigative Service.

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