Last four defendants in Marine Corps base corruption trial sentenced

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 12/10/2015

A federal judge sentenced three civilian military employees and one military contractor to six months to 10 years in prison for their roles in a transportation scheme to defraud the U.S. Marine Corps.

The sentences were handed down in U.S. District Court in Georgia and involve a scheme where the owner of a trucking company paid more than $800,000 in bribes to workers at the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany in order to obtain business for his company, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Justice Department news release states that evidence at the trial showed Christopher Whitman paid more than $800,000 in bribes to three former officials at the base’s Defense Logistics Agency in order to obtain business for his company. The contracts obtained were then loaded with unnecessary premium-priced requirements and other factors meant to increase costs, resulting in a gross profit for Whitman of more than $37 million in just less than four years, according to the agency.

The four defendants sentenced on Tuesday were as follows:

  • Shelby Janes, 69, of Albany, Ga., former inventory manager of the Marine Corps’ Fleet Support Division. Janes was ordered to serve two years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Janes had previously admitted taking nearly $100,000 in bribes in return for manipulating Marine Corps inventory controls to help Whitman steal and sell more than $1 million worth of surplus heavy engineering equipment.
  • Mitchell Potts, 50, of Sylvester, Ga., the former head of the Defense Logistics Agency’s Transportation (DLA) Office. Potts was given a sentence of 10 years in prison, followed by three years supervised release for his conviction of two counts of bribery. According to the DOJ, Potts took more than $275,000 in bribes, including cash, free rent, home improvements, meals, a hunting trip and other things of value.  
  • Jeffrey Philpot, 38, of Tifton, Ga., the former lead transportation assistant in DLA’s Traffic Office. Philpot received a seven-year sentence followed by three years of supervised release after admitting to receiving nearly $575,000 in bribes.
  • Kelli Durham, 35, of Leesburg, Ga., ULOC’s former manager under Whitman’s direction. Durham was sentenced to six months in prison for her role in the conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Collectively, the defendants were ordered to repay more than $2 million in forfeiture and restitution.

In September, a jury convicted Whitman and two other base employees for their role in the scheme.

One defendant is 48-year-old Whitman, co-owner of United Logistics, an Albany, Ga.-based trucking company. The other defendants are former Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany workers 36-year-old Shawn McCarty and 43-year-old Bradford Newell.

Whitman, whose company handled freight transportation and brokering of loads at the base, was convicted of 43 counts of honest services wire fraud; five counts each of bribery and obstruction of justice; and one count of theft of government property.

McCarty was convicted of 15 counts of honest services wire fraud as well as one count each of bribery and obstruction. Newell was convicted of 13 counts of wire fraud, and one count each of bribery and theft of government property.

It was also determined that Whitman paid an additional $200,000 in bribes to the former inventory control manager of the Distribution Management Center at the base, as well as to Newell and others, who used their official positions to help Whitman steal more than $1 million in surplus equipment from the base, including bulldozers, cranes and front-end loaders, the release stated. 

Among the things Whitman offered in addition to money are rare coins, collectible items, automobiles, firearms, home improvements, housing and meals.

Among the gifts Whitman provided Philpott are things worth approximately $523,662, including a baby grand piano valued at $9,370; a 2000 Pontiac TransAm valued at $22,000; firearms valued at $18,700 total; and a gold Beatles album valued at $11,800.

Whitman’s gifts to McCarty totaled approximately $156,000 and included a 1990 Ford Mustang valued at $11,919; a 2011 Polaris Four-Wheel ATV valued at $16,262; and $6,500 for a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle and new motor for the vehicle.

In exchange for the cash, gifts and other services, the base employees would delay freight transportation orders for hours, days, or even weeks. They would then designate those orders in need of “expedited pick-up” a premium-priced service, unnecessarily increasing shipping costs for the federal government.

Philpot and Potts pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme last year, along with another trucker, David R. Nelson.

Nelson admitted to paying bribes of more than $120,000 in cash during a period of roughly six years to Philpot and Potts for preferential treatment on getting loads at the base.

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