RIVERSIDE, California – A former Department of Defense civilian official has pleaded guilty to two felony charges for taking tens of thousands of dollars in illegal cash payments from a private contractor to support the contractor’s effort to obtain $6.4 million from the government in connection with construction projects on a Navy base in the African nation of Djibouti, the Justice Department announced today.
Nizar Farhat, 63, of Palm Desert, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of being a public official who received an illegal gratuity and one count of being a public official who received compensation from a private party for government services.
Farhat is a former construction manager who was based at the United States Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.
According to his plea agreement, in 2014 and 2015, Farhat was on assigned temporary duty at the United States Navy Base Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, where he oversaw a private company’s $15 million contract to construct an aircraft hangar and a telecommunications facility. After the projects were completed, the company submitted to the Defense Department Requests for Equitable Adjustment (REAs) that sought $6.43 million in additional payments.
Farhat admitted that, on four separate occasions between December 2015 and October 2017, he met with representatives of the company at hotels in Las Vegas and Palm Springs. During those meetings, Farhat took $15,000 in cash to help draft the REAs the company submitted to the Defense Department, and another $22,000 in cash to recommend that the Navy certify completion of the construction projects and approve the REAs. Following those meetings, Farhat urged the Defense Department to approve the majority of the REAs, without disclosing that defendant had received cash from the company in exchange for his recommendation.
The majority of the REAs remain under review by the Defense Department.
United States District Judge Jesus G. Bernal has scheduled an October 4 sentencing hearing, at which time Farhat will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney David T. Ryan of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section and Justice Department Trial Attorney David Recker of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting this case.