Former Defense Department supervisor sentenced for Camp Pendleton bribes

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A former Defense Department supervisor was sentenced this week to two years in federal prison for accepting more than $100,000 in bribes from contractors who sought to win or retain millions of dollars worth of government construction and service contracts at Camp Pendleton.

While handing down the punishment to 64-year-old Natividad Lara “Nate” Cervantes, U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia also ordered the defendant, who is free on bond, to surrender by Sept. 30 and forfeit $106,964.

Cervantes – who, according to prosecutors, called himself the “godfather” of the military base north of Oceanside – pleaded guilty in January to bribery and conspiracy charges.

He admitted using his position at Camp Pendleton to solicit bribes from construction companies seeking to do business on the base, including those run by co-defendants Hugo Hernandez Alonso (Hugo Alonso Inc.) and Bayani Yabut Abueg Jr. (MBR Associates).

From about 2008 until March 2013, Cervantes, a San Diego resident, served at Camp Pendleton as supervisor of the Construction and Service Contracts Inspection Branch, Facilities Support Contract Division. During that time, he used his position supervising construction and service contracts to solicit Alonso and Abueg for bribes from their companies, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.

In return for helping to steer contracts to his co-defendants, Cervantes received cash payments from them and extensive free construction work on his personal condominium, prosecutors alleged.

Cervantes admitted, for example, that he agreed to accept a $25,000 bribe to assist Alonso and HAI in obtaining a $3.5 million government contract to install flooring at Camp Pendleton.

In arranging for the illicit payment, Cervantes, through a third party, requested that Alonso “have the 25 package” – code for the $25,000 bribe – available on Sept. 5, 2008. Alonso did so, according to court documents.

Cervantes admitted that HAI paid him at least $119,000 between 2008 and 2011, and that Abueg’s company gave him another bribe in 2011 related to the awarding of a $3 million contract at Camp Pendleton.

Further, Cervantes admitted that on March 26, 2013, he met with a cooperating witness who agreed to pay him $40,000 in exchange for help in obtaining a $4 million contract at the Marine Corps station.

Two days later, the witness met with Cervantes at a business on Miramar Road and handed him an envelope containing $10,000 cash, purportedly an initial installment payment on the bribe. At that point, FBI agents arrested Cervantes.

Alonso and Abueg were sentenced last month – Alonso to a year in federal prison, three years of supervised release and a requirement to pay a fine of almost $127,000; Abueg to six months in federal custody, three years of supervised release and a requirement to reimburse $105,025 to the IRS and pay a $366,140 fine.

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