The Washington Post
Former Defense, Justice employee gets 7-plus years in fraud, bribery case
A Virginia man who is a former employee of both the Defense and Justice departments will spend over seven years in prison for taking bribes in exchange for steering government work to an unqualified subcontractor at inflated prices.
Matthew Kekoa Lumho, 47, of Fairfax Station, was convicted in a scheme to funnel telecommunications contracts from the Defense Department’s Office of the Inspector General to a small Florida construction company. William Wilson, the company’s owner, bribed executives at a major firm, Level 3, to get subcontracting work, and then bribed Lumho to make sure contracts went to Level 3.
Roughly $8 million went to Wilson; prosecutors estimate that $1.5 million of that was because of Lumho’s illegal actions. Prosecutors found only about $41,000 that went to Lumho himself.
“The loss is really Mr. Wilson’s gain,” Lumho’s defense attorney Frank Salvato said at a Friday sentencing hearing in federal court in Alexandria. But Judge Liam O’grady agreed with prosecutors that Lumho’s government role mattered more than the amount of money he received. Lumho “undermined the mission of the Inspector General — to fight waste, fraud, and abuse — from within the organization,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.
“You were a high-level decisionmaker in a sensitive position, with a high-level security clearance,” the judge said. He sentenced LumHo to 90 months in prison.
The case began with an employee at Level 3, Stephen Bishop, who filed a suit against the company in which the government ultimately intervened and settled for $13 million. Without Bishop and the law that encourages such whistleblower suits, his attorney, Zach Kitts, said, “these criminals would still be at large today.”
The fraud occurred in 2012 but took years to unravel — in part, prosecutors said, because Lumho and others obstructed the investigation. Lumho remained employed at the Office of the Inspector General for two years after committing his crimes; he then went to the Justice Department. When he was arrested in 2017, he was the acting chief information officer in the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
The evidence indicated Lumho used his illiterate father-in-law as a conduit for bribes, getting him a job as Wilson’s secretarial assistant. Through a contracting process he controlled, Lumho signed off on fake bills that charged the government inflated prices for basic equipment and services.
Lumho used some of the money to go on a Hawaiian vacation, prosecutors said. He also received high-end camera and stereo equipment that he charged to the Defense Department.
A program manager at Level 3 pleaded guilty to involvement in the scheme in 2018, forfeited $1 million, and testified at trial against the others. He was sentenced in September to a year in prison.
Lumho and Wilson went to trial twice; the first was cut short by a discovery issue. The men insisted that the contracts were legitimate and that the bribes were gifts between friends. Lumho blamed his superiors at the Defense Department, saying he followed their direction because he lacked experience dealing with contracts, and claimed he had no idea his fatherin-law was working for Wilson even though he deposited his checks. At the second trial, both were found guilty on all counts.
O’grady called Lumho’s account “a ridiculous story — it was absurd, it was full of lies.” He said he was particularly appalled that Lumho involved his father-in-law in the crime and two trials, calling it “unspeakable.”
Friends and family, including government employees, described Lumho in letters to the court as a responsible and considerate person who would go out of his way to help those in need, and volunteered his free time to church and charity groups in Northern Virginia.
“Kekoa is someone who makes a difference; a difference in the lives of his family, his friends, his son’s teammates, his community, his church fellowship and to people he doesn’t even know through his generosity for caring for others less fortunate,” a former colleague from the inspector general’s office wrote.
O’grady said he believed LumHo was a beloved father and church member, but that he couldn’t square that person with the one who committed fraud and then refused to admit his crimes. “It’s so disturbing, and such a mystery,” he said. “It’s like there’s two different people.”