SAN DIEGO — The former owner of a San Diego defense firm pleaded guilty Wednesday to making illegal campaign contributions to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and four congressmen in hopes of receiving a lucrative federal contract.
According to a plea bargain, Parthasarathi Majumder admitted that from 1993 to 1998 he reimbursed employees, subcontractors and friends for donating money to the politicians. Kerry received about $13,000; the others a total of $62,000.
None of the politicians knew the contributions were illegal, and none did anything wrong in accepting the contributions, federal prosecutors said in announcing the plea.
Majumder, 52, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India, could face six years in prison and a fine of $275,000 when sentenced. He has already agreed to repay $3 million to the federal government to settle a civil fraud case filed by prosecutors.
In exchange for guilty pleas on two counts, 38 other counts were dismissed.
"The voting process is the foundation of American democracy, and this office will vigorously prosecute conduct that threatens to undermine the integrity of that process," said U.S. Atty. Carol Lam.
Majumder's firm, Science and Applied Technologies Inc., was paid more than $150 million to design and develop an improved missile system for U.S. warplanes. The legislators wrote to Department of Defense officials, urging that the firm be awarded the contract, according to court documents.
After his indictment, Majumder sold his firm, but the Navy has continued to fund the project with more than $60 million. Although the firm was based in San Diego, most of its operations took place in Woodland Hills.
The project is meant to allow missiles to remain on target even after an enemy anti-aircraft fortification has switched off its radar. Many missiles use signals from those fortifications as guidance to find their targets.
Federal law prohibits defense contractors from making political contributions to elected officials in hopes of influencing the award of a contract.
Majumder allegedly funded 77 contributions, including $30,000 to Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-San Diego), $22,000 to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon), $6,000 to Rep. John Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, and $4,000 to former Rep. Joe Scarborough, a Republican from Florida.
Majumder reimbursed the contributors and provided bonuses to his employees. He allegedly told one employee that the contributions were necessary if the company was to stay in business. Some of the contributions were masked as "consulting fees" on the firm's bills submitted to the Department of Defense.