The United States Attorney’s Office announced that during a federal court session in Billings, on May 15, 2012, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn S. Ostby, Jodi Adkins Birdinground, a 36-year-old resident of Denver, Colorado, pled guilty to wire fraud. A sentencing date will be set at a later date. She is currently released on special conditions.
In an offer of proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica T. Fehr, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
The evidence would show that A.L. operated numerous office supply companies and used the following company names to defraud the U.S. Military through billing government credit cards without authorization, billing more than was authorized, and bribing government officials to purchase additional items with cash and gift cards. A.L. operated the following companies: Base Suppliers Inc.; Federal Office Supply; Fresh; Government Cartridge Supply; Impac Office Supply; Red Dog Toner; Rimrock Office Supply; Servumart; and Yellowstone Office Supply. A.L. operated the previously described companies out of two Billings, Montana addresses between 2005 and 2010. A.L.’s companies focused on selling office supplies to government agencies, primarily the military, through telemarketing.
A.L. and her employees gave military procurement personnel Western Union and Money Gram wires, gift cards, and cash to either induce the military personnel into buying office supplies through her companies or as a gratuitous gift after the order was placed. A.L. and her employees sent the military procurement personnel the wires, cards, and cash via Federal Express packages, often to the procurement personnel’s personal address. Even after A.L. and her employees were told by procurement personnel that they were not allowed to accept gifts over approximately $20, she and her staff continued to offer and provide amounts far in excess of $20 to military members.
Once military personnel were promised wires, cash and gift cards, A.L. and her employees often did not send all the agreed upon supplies; no supplies at all were sent to fulfill the individual orders; or supplies were sent at prices far exceeding the market price. Also, after obtaining a GPC number from a military member, A.L. made unauthorized charges on the GPC cards.
Birdinground was originally a co-owner of Base Suppliers Inc. with A.L. In 2006, Birdinground and A.L. opened Base Suppliers Inc. in Billings after leaving their previous employer. A few months after the two opened the company, A.L. bought out Birdinground’s half of the business for $500. Birdinground stayed on with the company as a manager. In an interview with law enforcement, Birdinground described her duties as a telemarketer and trainer. At the direction of A.L., Birdinground would visit various websites, including www.military.com, to get a list of all major unit listings on military bases and their points of contact, including phone numbers. Birdinground said that A.L. opened various companies to disguise the fact that all the sales were coming from the same place so military members could work around the $3,000 daily cap on GPC charges. Birdinground explained that A.L. was the one that told her to start paying “kickbacks” to customers. Birdinground believed the “kickbacks” began in 2008. Birdinground said that A.L. approved all the kickbacks before they were promised and sent to the procurement officers. Birdinground told law enforcement she knew what she was doing was wrong but still continued to offer bribes and provide credit card numbers to A.L.
On November 23, 2009, Birdinground sent a Money Gram wire transfer of $300 from Billings, Montana to J.S. in San Diego, California. J.S. was a Ccorporal with the U.S. Marine Corps, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California. J.S. was the supply officer for his unit. J.S. was a customer of three of A.L.’s companies: Rimrock Office Supply; Government Cartridge; and Red Dog Toner Inc. From November 2009 to January of 2010, J.S. placed 10 orders with A.L.’s companies through Birdinground. Of the 10 purchases, three were made for $3,000 each, the maximum GPC daily limit, to the three different companies on the same date to avoid suspicion. Two more purchases were split between two of the companies, again to circumvent military regulations limiting daily spending with one vendor to $3,000. The same pattern continued with the remaining five purchases. From November 2009 to January 2010, J.S. received five cash wires from Birdinground—a total of $1,800. The purpose of the cash wired to J.S. was to keep him from reporting the violations of the $3,000 daily limit and to continue to place orders with A.L. and Birdinground despite the actual needs of his military unit and the exorbitant price of the goods sold by A.L. and Birdinground. When asked by law enforcement about overcharging the government, Birdinground stated, “They pay $500 for a toilet seat, paying a little more for toner isn’t that bad.”
A total of 24 government procurement professionals were interviewed by law enforcement. Of the 24 interviewed, 17 individuals admitted receiving cash and/or gift cards in exchange for placing supply orders with the subject companies. In addition, law enforcement used one cooperating witness and one undercover agent to record and monitor A.L., Birdinground, and others. Both individuals’ contacts with A.L. supported the claims that A.L. bribed government procurement officers and billed unapproved charges to GPC cards.
Birdinground faces possible penalties of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years’ supervised release.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, General Services Administration-Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Defense-Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service, Air Force Criminal Investigation Division, and the Army Criminal Investigation Division.