Conn. Auto Repair Business, President Plead Guilty to Scam

December 6, 2005

Kevin O’Connor, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that Auto Specialist Inc., located at 401 Elm Street, West Haven, Connecticut, and David Wakefield, 48, of North Haven, Connecticut, pleaded guilty recently to federal charges arising out of an investigation into a bribery scheme at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Haven.

During court proceedings this morning before United States Magistrate Judge Donna Martinez in Hartford, Auto Specialist Inc. pleaded guilty to bribery, and Wakefield, president of the company, pleaded guilty to fraudulently accepting payments made to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Both Wakefield and Auto Specialist Inc. are scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Alvin Thompson on Feb. 21, 2006, at which time Wakefield faces a maximum term of imprisonment of one year and a fine of up to $100,000, and Auto Specialist Inc., faces up to five years probation and $500,000 in fines. As part of the plea agreement, in addition to any fine imposed, Auto Specialist Inc. has agreed to pay to the Government $150,000 for the cost of investigation and prosecution of this matter.

According to documents filed with the Court and comments made during these proceedings, from 1998 to October 2001, Auto Specialist Inc., an automobile repair business, was retained by the Department of Veterans Affairs to perform repair services on vehicles operated by the VA at its West Haven medical center. Its point of contact at the VA was Dennis Smith, who was then a transportation specialist with the VA, and who has previously pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and is awaiting sentencing on that charge.

Recently, Wakefield admitted that, on multiple occasions, he received monies from the VA for work purportedly done on VA vehicles that he knew, in fact, had not been done. In particular, in February 2001, Wakefield and Auto Specialist Inc. received a payment of $2,294 for repairs claimed to have been completed on a VA vehicle, but were not completed.

In addition, Auto Specialist Inc. admitted that, on multiple occasions, it corruptly gave and caused to be given something of value to Smith, including a December 1998 check in the amount of $1,739.95 to pay a credit card bill incurred by Smith. That payment was made in return for and with the intent of influencing Smith to commit a fraud on the United States.

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