Defense Dept. employee arrested on bribery charges

Defense Dept. employee overseeing Camp Pendleton construction contracts is accused of bribery

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A Department of Defense employee who oversaw construction contracts at Camp Pendleton used his position to extort bribes from businesses seeking to work on the California Marine Corps base, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Natividad Lara Cervantes was arrested Thursday after authorities say he accepted $10,000 of a $40,000 bribe offered by a witness working with federal agents, said Daphne Hearn, the special agent in charge of the FBI's San Diego office.

Cervantes believed he was receiving the money in exchange for helping the witness secure a $4 million flooring contract, according to a federal complaint.

Prosecutors say Cervantes referred to himself as the "Godfather at Camp Pendleton," and, dating back to September 2008, he accepted thousands of dollars in cash payments and remodeling work on his condominium in exchange for helping contractors get business on the Marine Corps base north of San Diego.

Cervantes is a Department of Defense employee and a supervisor for construction and service contracts at Camp Pendleton.

Neither Cervantes nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

According to the complaint, the witness working with the FBI met with Cervantes on March 26 and agreed to pay the $40,000 bribe. The first payment of $20,000 was to be paid Thursday, and the remainder was to be paid when the contract was awarded, prosecutors say. The meeting was monitored by federal agents.

Cervantes was arrested at a business in San Diego after the witness met him there to discuss the bribe payments and handed him an envelope containing $10,000, according to the complaint.

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