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VA man sentenced in military contracts scheme involving defective, Chinese parts

[GateHouse Media, File]

A Virginia man was sentenced in federal court in Columbus Monday to 8 years in prison after admitting to a contracting scheme involving defective parts made in China supplied to the U.S. military for vehicles and weapons systems.

Daniel Emerson Norton, 52, of Arlington, also will have to provide restitution of about $3.2 million after pleading guilty to felony counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, concealment money laundering and tampering with documents or proceedings.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson said that though no deaths of servicemen or women occurred as a result of the crime, “they could have.”

“This is a serious offense,” Watson said.

According to court documents, businesses controlled by Norton bid on Department of Defense contracts to provide parts, with certain specifications.

Under his direction, the parts then were sourced from Chinese manufacturers, sold to the U.S. government at large markups and ultimately found to be deficient or defective. Many of the parts were supposed to manufactured domestically.

“The fact that someone would source critical items from a country that we have a difficult relationship with … is deeply troubling,” Watson said.

The judge cited one example of seats provided for military vehicles that were not supposed to catch fire but, when tested, “lit right up.” In another case, vehicle folding steps were made of the wrong material, purchased at a cost of about $6 and sold the government for more than $74 each.

When they learned of investigations into their activities, Norton and a co-defendant in the case shredded documents, destroyed computers and took other steps to obstruct proceedings, according to documents.

Watson did say Norton was something of an anomaly in such cases, acknowledging that the defendant used part of the proceeds from his activities to fund medical care, build schools and otherwise help the needy in Bangladesh. Court documents noted Norton “has not purchased fancy cars, fancy clothes, fancy jewelry or other symbols of wealth.”

But Watson said the 96-month sentence, which was about twice as long as typical in similar cases, was warranted due to Norton’s obstruction in the case.

“You put at risk the lives of any number of people who have volunteered their time to protect this country,” Watson said.

In addition to the prison sentence, Norton forfeited more than $330,000 from a bank account, as well as property he owns in Hawaii.


© 2019 The Columbus Dispatch