TAMPA — For three years FBI agents have investigated allegations that multiple government contractors paid bribes to U.S. Department of Energy employees for contracts or favoritism, according to a newly unsealed criminal complaint.
The investigations, which originated in Maryland, came to light this week when a Sarasota man accused of setting up some of the bribes landed before a federal judge in Tampa.
Anatoly Samgorodsky, 64, is in the Pinellas County Jail on an FBI complaint that says he and a Stamford, Conn., business partner, Eugene Ostrovsky, paid gratuities to a DOE official to obtain a $3.4 million contract to research nuclear reactor fuel rods.
The FBI was involved from the start. The unnamed energy official alerted investigators to Samgorodsky's August 2014 overture to him, an offer of a business opportunity, the affidavit reports.
Agents started recording conversations with the businessmen, some in Russian. Samgorodsky is a naturalized U.S. citizen of Ukrainian origin. Ostrovsky, of Russian and Ukrainian origin, is also a U.S. citizen.
The men each own 20 percent shares in Sanova, a Long Island, N.Y., metallurgical research company headed by a third man.
Samgorodsky is charged with bribery of public officials, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
No separate criminal complaint against Ostrovsky has been made public, but he is named as a defendant in the FBI probable cause affidavit that accompanies the Samgorodsky arrest warrant.
Neither man could be reached Thursday. The DOE declined to discuss ongoing investigations and referred a reporter to its inspector general's office, which did not respond to request for comment.
While not widely publicized, a broader inquiry had been in the works since 2012, according to the FBI affidavit.
The energy agency's inspector general and the FBI were looking into "a series of allegations of illegal gratuities and/or bribes paid by multiple DOE contractors to DOE employees in exchange for the award of contracts and/or favoritism," the record said.
At the direction of those investigators, the unnamed energy official worked with Samgorodsky, giving him direct access to personnel in DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy.
Samgorodsky introduced the official to Ostrovsky, who is Sanova's vice president, and the two businessmen put on a presentation at the department headquarters in Germantown, Md.
Afterward, the three met for dinner, the record said, and discussed how to pay the official, whose gender is not revealed in the records. The FBI was listening.
"You'll get rewarded," Ostrovsky said in the transcript.
They noted the perils of cash.
"I cannot, and I will not, be in Washington with a suitcase of papers," Ostrovsky said.
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They talked of a using an intermediary. Ostrovsky suggested that the official and the intermediary use no-contract phones for covert communications, the record said.
Of course, nothing was covert: The energy official was cooperating with the FBI, and the intermediary was an FBI employee.
Sanova and the Department of Energy signed the research contract in May. It included a clause prohibiting gratuities.
Samgorodsky and Ostrovsky were each heard saying that the energy official would be paid $70,000 or more, the record said.
In June, after the DOE began shelling out periodic payments to the company, the intermediary began collecting payoffs, $2,500 to $10,000 at a time, the record said.
Some were traded under restaurant tables or claimed from the trunk of a rental car.
Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Patty Ryan at email@example.com or (813) 226-3382.