WASHINGTON – A federal court upheld the bribery convictions of two Treasury Department (search) employees Thursday but ordered a new sentencing hearing because the lower court miscalculated the value of the bribes they solicited.
Jan Blanton (search) and Clifford Quinn (search) were convicted in May 2002 for attempting to award no-bid Treasury Department contracts to two different companies, in exchange for compensation for Quinn and Quinn's friend, Christopher Beisler (search).
None of the three people saw any money from the bribery attempts. Beisler pleaded guilty and got six months home detention, while Quinn and Blanton were each sentenced to seven years and three months in prison and fined $15,000.
Their sentences were enhanced from the minimum 10 months for soliciting bribes because they were convicted of multiple counts, they lied at trial and the value of the bribes exceeded $10 million.
But Judge Dennis Shedd, writing a published opinion for a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search), said that the value of the bribes was overstated by District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. when he sentenced the two.
Williams had said the two contracts in question were worth a total of $13.3 million. But Shedd said that because the contracts were for actual work, Quinn and Blanton would have received no more than a portion of the total, and he ordered Williams to recalculate the value of the scheme.
"We're hopeful that it will be a significant deduction in the sentence," said Quinn's attorney, Robert Bonsib. "You've got people that are sentenced to seven years, and they didn't see a penny."
Bonsib did not know if Quinn, who is currently in prison, would appeal. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment, and Blanton's attorney could not be reached Friday.
Blanton was director of the Treasury Department's Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture (search) when she hired Quinn in 1997 to operate the office's system for tracking assets. The office manages the assets seized by agencies like the Internal Revenue Service and the Secret Service.
Court documents said Quinn planned to automate the office's programs, which he thought were inefficient.
At the same time, he asked Beisler to help him create software that would let law enforcement agencies at all levels track assets, saying such a product could turn a profit "between $30 million and $60 million."
In July 1997, Quinn approached Counter Technology Inc. (search) to discuss a deal in which it would market that software.
Soon after, Blanton offered Counter Technology a $4.5 million contract for the office automation project -- on the condition that Quinn was hired as project manager and paid $125,000, court records said.
Counter Technology, which did not respond to the offer, later found out that Blanton had removed company employees from certain projects and complained to other Treasury officials about its work, court records said. She did not award them the contract.
After the Treasury Department approved Blanton and Quinn's automation project in September 1997, she approached West Electronics (search) with a contract "on the condition that West engage Beisler as a subcontractor," court documents said.
But West Electronics "refused to do business" with Beisler, who demanded 80 percent of the contract. When West said that, by law, it could not pay out more than 49 percent of the contract, Beisler asked for 49 percent.
West refused both bids, court documents said, and Blanton withdrew the contract offer.
Beisler, Blanton and Quinn were indicted in May 2000. Beisler was sentenced in June 2002, a month after Blanton and Quinn were convicted. They challenged their convictions, claiming that the original charges against them were insufficient, that Williams improperly instructed the jury in their case and that the evidence presented in court was "not sufficient to prove a violation."
But the appellate panel rejected those arguments, saying the "evidence showed that Quinn and Blanton sought something of value -- compensation for Quinn and Beisler -- in exchange for favorable action on contracts for the (office) automation project."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.