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Colonel, O.C. Man Accused in Bribe Scam

July 04, 2002|MONTE MORIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Orange County businessman and a U.S. Army colonel were indicted Wednesday on charges of rigging $150 million worth of military service contracts in South Korea.

Col. Richard J. Moran, 56, who oversaw all U.S. military contract bidding in South Korea, is accused of pocketing $850,000 in cash kickbacks from contractors hired to build barracks and provide security guards. A portion of that money, according to the U.S. attorney's office, was funneled through Joseph Kang Hur, 57, of Anaheim Hills, who was allegedly recruited by the colonel as a middleman.

The FBI, IRS and Korean National Police began investigating the two after U.S. Army investigators noticed irregularities in the awarding of contracts, according Assistant U.S. Atty. John Hueston.

Moran, who was stationed at Yongsan Army Base in South Korea, was arrested by military police and put on a plane to Los Angeles after his indictment by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana. Hur surrendered to authorities following his indictment and was ordered released hours later on a $10,000 bond.

The indictments names three other civilians, including Moran's wife, Gina Cha Moran, 44. She is accused of soliciting some of the contract bribes for her husband and of attempting to hide the cash from investigators.

An attorney for the Morans could not be reached for comment. Hur's attorney said his client was unwittingly duped.

During a search of the Morans' home in January, investigators uncovered $700,000 worth of $100 bills and Korean traveler's checks that had been stuffed into a couch, a bed and a bedroom closet. As Army investigators searched the home for 10 hours, Gina Moran attempted to shuttle wads of cash from the couch to the bedroom by feigning illness and telling investigators that she had to leave the room, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Thomas McConville.

Authorities said Moran used a computer, his wife and Hur as go-betweens in various kickback schemes.

Prosecutors said Moran met Hur in August 2001 in Korea and recruited him to negotiate a bribe for an upcoming $100-million security contract. Although Moran had been ordered to select the least expensive, best qualified bidder, he focused on IBS Industries Co.--a firm that was ranked eighth in cost out of a field of 11.

In exchange for the contract, IBS allegedly paid Hur and Moran $40,000 in $100 bills, as requested by Moran. "They called him a consultant, when in fact he was just a conduit for the bribes," Hueston said of Hur.

"Col. Moran sold the trust placed in him by the U.S. armed forces," Hueston added. "He sold the honor and prestige of his position to the highest bidder."

While appearing at a bail hearing in federal court Wednesday afternoon, Hur's lawyer said his client had been unsuspectingly pulled into the plot. He said Hur was working for another security firm that was bidding on the project when Moran recruited him.

"He was used as a pawn," Fernando Leone said. "The colonel needed someone who could speak Korean and do what he wanted him to do. Mr. Hur was victimized."

The lawyer also said bribes and kickbacks are viewed differently in South Korea than in the United States.

"That's how business is conducted in Asia," Leone said, explaining why his client wasn't more suspicious. "Everybody's on the take. What's not enforceable in Korea, though, is a serious offense here." He also said his client was involved in only a small part of Moran's contract dealings.

At Hur's bail hearing, Leone described his client as a general contractor and a 30-year American citizen.

In addition to the security contract, prosecutors said, Moran persuaded South Korean building contractor Aulson and Sky Contractors Ltd. to pay him $700,000 for construction worth $25 million. The cash was allegedly collected by Moran's wife.

Prosecutors have described Moran as a 25-year Army veteran whose primary residence is in Maine. He oversaw 17,000 contracts with an annual value of more than $310 million. He and his wife probably face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the charges, which include bribery, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and money laundering.

Also named in Wednesday's indictment are Ronald Adair Parrish, 49, a civilian who was chief of the Army's contract support division in South Korea, and Indiana businessman Richard Lee Carlisle.

Prosecutors said that Parrish was responsible for releasing bidding information to Carlisle, who hoped to win a computer contract.

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Times staff writer Darren Briscoe contributed to this report.

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