Texas man lied about faulty Chinese military equipment to win US contracts, says federal government

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A 32-year-old man is accused of falsifying ballistic tests, fabricating emails and posing as foreign officials to trick the federal government into awarding his company lucrative defense contracts for Chinese-made military equipment that he said was made in the United States.

Some of this equipment was sent to the United States embassy in Baghdad and foreign law enforcement agencies in Latin America, prosecutors said.

Tanner Jackson, owner of Top Body Armor LLC USA and Bullet Proof Armor LLC, pleaded guilty to electronic fraud on Tuesdayon Nov. 16, in the Eastern District of Virginia, the US attorney’s office said in a press release. Jackson is from Celeste, Texas, a rural town of less than 1,000 people about 90 miles from Fort Worth.

Prosecutors said Jackson led the two companies out of his home in Celeste.

Jackson could not be reached for comment, and a defense attorney representing him did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment.

The so-called diet

Prosecutors indicted Jackson by means of criminal information in October, court records show.

According to these documents, Jackson and his wife were the only two employees of Top Body Armor and Bullet Proof Armor, which resell bulletproof vests and military-grade helmets.

In 2017, Jackson reportedly began bidding on State Department contracts for the supply of military equipment, but lied in the requests, saying his companies made the equipment.

Because military equipment supplied to the government must meet strict safety standards, prosecutors said, Jackson also formed a bogus ballistic testing company and fabricated reports that the helmets and body armor passed the test. gathering.

Jackson then posed as a U.S. Embassy official and senior foreign police official in Honduras to sign deals with a Chinese exporter, which allowed the helmets and vests to be exported. bulletproof into the United States, prosecutors said.

But orders took a long time to get through US customs, resulting in a delay in delivery. The government said Jackson created fake email accounts and wrote himself messages blaming delays from truck crashes or COVID-19 outbreaks, which he then forwarded to government officials.

Defective material sent to Baghdad

In June 2017, Jackson submitted an offer of $ 184,523 to supply the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad with bulletproof vests and bullet-resistant helmets. When a contracting officer asked for proof that his equipment was made in the United States and passed ballistic tests, the government said Jackson lied about the origins of the manufacturing and sent a false lab report.

He reportedly discussed the desire to maintain “quality control” of the products by producing them “in-house” in e-mail exchanges with the officer, and he promised to have the steel plates and helmets produced in France. 28 to 30 days.

Jackson was awarded the contract in July, according to court documents. He then ordered 500 ballistic helmets from a Chinese supplier by forging another person’s signature, the government said.

The equipment was shipped to a State Department facility in New York in September 2017 and later sent to the Embassy in Baghdad. The government then wired over $ 184,000 to Jackson’s company as payment.

“After concerns about the quality of the helmets and bulletproof vests, they were withdrawn from service,” prosecutors said.

As part of his plea deal, Jackson will have to pay a minimum of $ 184,512 in restitution, according to court documents. He is expected to be sentenced in February and faces up to 20 years in prison, although prosecutors have said sentences for federal crimes are generally less than the maximum allowed.

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