Branded merchandise was at the center of a fraud case that has seen a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves sentenced to four years in prison. Frederick Lamar Burnett was also ordered to forfeit $4.4 million to the government.
Sentenced in late November by a federal judge in Alabama, Burnett, 50, is going to prison after being found guilty of fraudulently supplying hundreds of thousands of Chinese-produced baseball caps and backpacks to the Army Recruiting Command and passing them off as American-made products.
Under the terms of three contracts worth a total of $6.2 million, Burnett certified that the promotional items he would provide – caps in two cases, backpacks in one – would be 100% American-made. However, a trial showed that, through his Huntsville, AL-based company Lamar International Inc., Burnett negotiated and contracted with suppliers directly from China and with American companies who he knew were procuring their products from Chinese manufacturers. Filling orders with Chinese-made products under all three contracts, Burnett hid the items’ foreign origins by hiring workers on a cash basis to remove the Chinese labels and repackage the items. He then sent the products to the Army Recruiting Command.
In April, a federal jury convicted Burnett on three counts of wire fraud for his conduct. U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Blackburn sentenced Burnett and ordered him to serve three years of supervised release following his stay in prison.
“Securing the defense procurement base from fraud is important to American taxpayers and our national security posture,” said U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town. “(The) sentence sends a strong message that defrauding the United States carries a stiff penalty. Anyone seeking to lie, cheat or steal from the government will find bed space reserved for them behind bars.”
As part of the fraud, Burnett certified that he would meet the requirements of the Buy American Act, the Berry Amendment, and federal regulations that require the government to buy domestic products and materials.
The Buy American Act requires the federal government to buy domestic articles, materials and supplies -- primarily to protect American workers and manufacturing jobs. The Berry Amendment prohibits the Defense Department from buying clothing, fabrics, fibers and yarns that were not grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the United States. The purpose of the Berry Amendment is to protect the viability of the American textile and clothing production base.