Ex-Federal Official from Palm Desert Admits Taking Money Illegally

City News Service

A former Department of Defense project services manager from Palm Desert admitted taking money from contractors in connection with federal work overseas and is now facing up to 10 years in prison, authorities said Tuesday.

Nizar Farhat, 63, pleaded guilty Monday to one count each of receiving an illegal gratuity and being a public official taking money from private parties for government work.

U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal scheduled a sentencing hearing for Oct. 4 at the federal courthouse in downtown Riverside.

The defendant remains free on a $75,000 bond.

He was a former construction manager with offices at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.

In December, a federal grand jury returned an indictment listing the two offenses to which he pleaded guilty. At the time, Farhat was staying in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, where he was arrested without incident by FBI agents and returned to California.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in 2014 and 2015, the defendant was on temporary assignment at the U.S. Navy’s Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, where he oversaw a private company’s $15 million contract to construct an aircraft hangar and a telecommunications facility.

After the projects were completed, the company submitted to the Pentagon “Requests for Equitable Adjustment” — REAs — that sought $6.43 million in additional payments for the work, according to prosecutors.

They alleged Farhat met with the company’s representatives on four different occasions at hotels in Las Vegas and Palm Springs between December 2015 and October 2017.

During the meetings, the defendant accepted a $15,000 payment for providing his assistance in forwarding the REAs, as well as a separate $22,000 cash payment to submit his recommendation that the Navy approve them, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Most of the REAs are on hold, pending review by the Department of Defense, according to prosecutors.

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