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iGov gets $500 million contract despite laptop theft

TAMPA — The competitors of iGov Technologies Inc. weren't shy about using the biggest cargo heist in Hillsborough County history against the defense contractor, the company says.

Burglars cut a hole in the roof of an iGov warehouse in east Hillsborough in 2010.

They deactivated a sophisticated alarm, then loaded 3,000 Panasonic Toughbook laptops recently purchased by U.S. Special Operations Command into two semitrailer trucks.

An iGov executive spotted the burglars outside the warehouse. He didn't call police, assuming they were fishing in a nearby retention pond.

But the Hollywood-style theft did not prevent iGov from winning a $500 million extension of their contract to provide high-tech gear and services to SOCom, the Pentagon announced this week.

SOCom officials, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, declined to discuss if security was an issue in awarding the contract.

"The FBI reviewed the company's security as part of their investigation," said Ken McGraw, a SOCom spokesman.

In late 2011, J. Manning Bolchoz, now iGov's vice president of program management, told a federal judge at the sentencing of the heist's ringleader the theft had a major impact on iGov.

"Our competitors have gone to great lengths to use this theft against us in the competition" for the contract extension, Bolchoz said. Competitors used the heist to suggest "that we are unable to secure a property."

Bolchoz did not name the competitors or say how they used the heist against iGov, a Virginia company with offices in Tampa.

An iGov spokesman could not be reached to ask about Bolchoz's statement.

The man law enforcement said was the ringleader, Rolando Coca Alvarez, 57, of Miami was sentenced to 57 months in prison by a federal judge in December 2011. He had pleaded guilty to theft of government property.

Of the $7.4 million in laptops, and other equipment stolen, investigators recovered all but $2.8 million worth.

None of the laptops had military software or sensitive information on them, said SOCom, which commands the nation's elite special forces.

What may have favored iGov during competition for the contract was that it wasn't the victim of a garden-variety burglary.

"This was very choreographed and conducted at a very high skill level," Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee said in 2011.

A second man was sentenced to two years in prison for trying to sell some of the laptops. By December 2011, no others had been charged in the heist. It was unclear late Tuesday if anyone had been arrested since then.

In addition, iGov's insurer said in a lawsuit filed in 2011 against ADT Security Services that ADT failed to install a wireless backup system that would have alerted authorities when power to the alarm was cut.

The case was dismissed in ADT's favor last year, but is being appealed.

Bolchoz told a judge at Alvarez's sentencing that workers are no longer allowed to be alone at iGov's warehouse at 9211 Palm River Road. Armed guards have been hired, he said.

"I don't believe myself or my employees will ever have the same feeling of comfort in that facility that we had prior to this theft," Bolchoz said.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432

iGov gets $500 million contract despite laptop theft 02/05/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 10:59pm]
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