Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Former Bureau of Land Management Official Sentenced to Federal Prison

Restitution Ordered in Scheme to Defraud BLM

MEDFORD, OR—Luis Ramirez, 58, of Medford, Oregon, was sentenced Monday to 36 months in federal prison by Senior U.S. District Judge Owen M. Panner for orchestrating a sophisticated scheme to defraud the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) through his official position with that agency. Ramirez was also ordered to pay full restitution of $481,602.47 to BLM and to serve three years of supervised release. Ramirez pled guilty in April 2010 to five counts of wire fraud, along with separate counts of personal financial conflict of interest and making a false tax return statement.

Ramirez was employed as a Contracting Officer’s Representative for the BLM in the Medford District Office. He was responsible for administering BLM contracts including approving work to be done on contracts and submitting invoices to BLM Contracting Officers in Portland for their approval and payment to private contractors. The FBI initiated an investigation upon receiving information from an anonymous source that Ramirez was allegedly receiving personal payments from private BLM contractors involving his official duties. The FBI was joined in their investigation by the IRS, and they were commended in court for uncovering the complicated schemes Ramirez devised to defraud BLM, ones that would not have otherwise been uncovered except for their investigative efforts.

At the time of his plea, Ramirez admitted that from May 2004 until July 2007, he intentionally devised and carried out various schemes to defraud BLM that included approving work for private contractors that was unnecessary, unwarranted, not actually performed by the contractor or was never performed at all, as well as arranging for contractors, unbeknownst to BLM, to subcontract work to his son on BLM contracts that were being administered by him. Ramirez would then falsely certify that the work he approved was completed by the contractor, and then obtained payment from BLM for the contractor. Ramirez arranged through various deceptive means to have the private contractors issue checks to Ramirez’s son, Evan, either directly or through third parties and the contractors were reimbursed with the BLM payments. Large portions of the money was deposited into Evan Ramirez’s primary bank account and then transferred to Ramirez’s personal bank account. The FBI and IRS uncovered evidence that Ramirez’s schemes were ongoing since 2002.

"Managing the taxpayer's money is a sacred trust—violate that trust and we will hold you accountable. The Ramirezes will have 36 long months to consider the trust they breeched in stealing from taxpayers—months Luis Ramirez will spend in a jail cell."

“Members of our community expect government employees to act honestly and ethically,” said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “When even one person dishonors that trust, it rips away the professional dignity that other government servants have spent a lifetime building.”

Evan Ramirez, 31, Medford, was also sentenced Monday by Senior U.S. District Judge Owen M. Panner to three years of supervised release with 12 months of home detention, fined $2,000 and ordered to pay full restitution of $6,988. Evan Ramirez pleaded guilty in April 2010 to making a false tax return statement, a felony. At the time of his plea, Evan Ramirez admitted that when he submitted his 2006 personal income tax return to the Internal Revenue Service he knew it was false by not reporting $18,055 of income to the IRS, the source of which was from criminal activity involving private contractor payments where a portion of the funds were transferred to Luis Ramirez’s primary bank account. The restitution ordered to be paid was the amount of tax loss to the IRS.

This was a joint investigation by the Medford offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron Chatfield.

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