Mercer denies involvement in bribery scheme at Marine base

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line Digital Content Editor | Friday, July 07, 2017

Attorneys for Mercer Transportation say the company had no knowledge of the actions by two of the men who engaged in a bribery scheme to secure lucrative government contracts for delivery at a Georgia Marine base.

The federal government filed suit against the Louisville-based carrier following an investigation that sent the two men – a truck driver and a sales agent – as well as two base employees to prison. The government’s case hinges on whether Mercer knew or should have known that its employees paid thousands of dollars to the two base employees to secure millions of dollars in shipping jobs from 2006 to 2012.

Ivan D. Brannan, who worked as a freight broker for Mercer, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery of a public official in February 2016. Trucker David Nelson pleaded guilty to the same charge in October 2014.

In court filings, Mercer’s attorneys claim that Brannan and Nelson were independent contractors, and deny the allegation that Mercer’s management knew about the bribes. Court records indicate the company’s business with the Marine base rose from $278,652 in 2006 to roughly $6.5 million in 2007 after the scheme was initiated. The government also alleges two other Mercer drivers, who were not identified in the complaint, participated in the scheme.

Among the allegations of a corrupt relationship between the personnel is a truckload shipment of a single 20-pound box that originated at the Georgia base and was transported to Fort Lewis, Wash. Mercer invoiced the government $8,508 for the shipment.

According to the indictment, from 2006 to 2012 Brannan provided cash and other items of value to Mitchell Potts, a former Traffic Office Supervisor for the Defense Logistics Agency at MCLB-Albany, for the purpose of ensuring that Brannan’s trucking company client was awarded business.

The indictment also alleges that Brannan directed truck driver Nelson to provide cash to both Potts and Jeffrey Philpot, another official in the Defense Logistics Agency Traffic Office at MCLB-Albany, to ensure that the trucking company continued to receive the base’s business. According to the indictment, over the course of the conspiracy, Nelson paid at least $120,000 in bribes to Potts and Philpot at Brannan’s direction.

Potts, of Sylvester, Ga., was the former head of the Defense Logistics Agency’s Transportation Office. He received a sentence of 10 years in prison, followed by three years supervised release for his conviction of two counts of bribery. According to the Department of Justice, Potts took more than $275,000 in bribes, including cash, free rent, home improvements, meals, a hunting trip and other things of value.

Philpot, of Tifton, Ga., was the former lead transportation assistant in Defense Logistics Agency’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.

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.

Related story:
Florida freight broker pleads guilty in Marine base bribery scheme

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