Two ex-Pentagon officials convicted of taking bribes

Friday, July 11, 2003

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Two former Pentagon officials were convicted Thursday of taking more than $1 million in bribes and accepting prostitutes and title-fight tickets from government contractors.

Robert Lee Neal Jr., 50, of Bowie, Md., was convicted of conspiracy, extortion, money laundering, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. A Clinton appointee, he controlled a government program that distributed $28 million annually to small minority-owned businesses.

His top assistant, Francis Delano Jones Jr., 41, of Fort Washington, Md., was convicted of the same charges. His attorney said he would seek a new trial separate from the co-defendant.

Testimony indicated that some businesses that paid bribes received millions of dollars in government contracts. The men demanded bribes as high as $100,000 each and overall received $1.1 million in illegal funds.

Neal faces a maximum sentence of 125 years, and Jones faces 120 years at sentencing Oct. 3, although they probably will face much less under federal guidelines. The jury also ordered the men to forfeit $2 million to the government. Both men left their jobs in 2001, during the transition to the Bush administration.

One witness testified that he provided the two men with two prostitutes each at a government conference in the U.S. Virgin Islands. That witness said his company received two contacts worth $1.4 million with the assistance of Neal and Jones.

Another witness said he provided prostitutes for the men and paid for a 1997 trip to Las Vegas to see a heavyweight title bout between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.

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