The former Irvine, California resident pleads guilty to defrauding the Afghan government over a US-funded substation construction contract, the DOJ reports
April 28, 2021 – LOS ANGELES – A former Orange County resident pleaded guilty Tuesday to his role in a scheme to defraud the Afghan government of more than $ 100 million. The Afghanistan has received funds from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to build a power grid in Afghanistan in connection with the US’s longstanding efforts to strengthen the country’s basic infrastructure.
Saed Ismail Amiri, 38, who currently lives in Granite Bay but resided in Irvine until last year, pleaded guilty before US District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr.
According to unsealed Tuesday afternoon court documents, Amiri was at various times either the owner or senior advisor to Assist Consultants Incorporated (ACI), an Afghan company that had US-funded contracts worth over $ 250 million since 2013. USAID authorized Afghanistan’s national power company, Da ‘Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), in connection with U.S. efforts to support Afghanistan and its people, to obtain bids for a U.S.-funded contract to build five substations to connect Afghanistan’s power grid systems in the northeast and southeast. Offers were only obtained from companies with extensive experience in the construction of substations. In particular, the contract criteria required that bidders like ACI had previously worked on two substations with 220 kilovolts or more.
In 2015 and 2016, Amiri, ACI staff and others ran a contract acquisition program by submitting false work history and fraudulent receipts to mislead DABS that ACI met the required contract criteria.
In July 2015, ACI submitted an offer for the contract for $ 112,292,241, undercutting its competitors by more than $ 20 million. In its offer, ACI stated that it had subcontracted a main contractor on two 220 kilovolt substations for a cement factory in Uganda and a textile company in Nigeria. In fact, the alleged prime contractor was a fictional company that ACI had invented and controlled, ACI had never worked on building a substation in Africa, and neither the Ugandan cement factory nor the Nigerian textile company existed.
In February 2016, after Amiri returned to Irvine, DABS contacted ACI and requested supporting documents to verify ACI’s work history. Amiri then sent emails to co-conspirators outside California, including emails indicating that some of them would have to go to Uganda and Nigeria to get false documents in order to respond to DABS. Amiri then left the United States and emailed documents to DABS in support of the program that he knew were inaccurate and altered, including ACI’s alleged subcontract to work on the Ugandan substation, the substation coordinates, Photos, fake bank records and a fake letter allegedly from a Ugandan government official.
After Amiri submitted the falsified documents to DABS, he met with US law enforcement agencies at the US embassy in Afghanistan and, among other things, falsely stated that he had learned the previous month that ACI had bid on the contract. Shortly afterwards, Amiri withdrew the offer from ACI. In a subsequent interview with law enforcement agencies, Amiri also falsely stated that another ACI employee had submitted the wrong documents to DABS, even though Amiri had actually emailed the wrong documents himself.
Amiri is to be sentenced by Judge Blumenfeld on August 10th. At this point he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Judge Blumenfeld will determine each sentence based on U.S. sentencing guidelines and other legal factors.
The matter has been investigated by the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan and the Inspectorate General of USAID.
United States Assistant Attorney Jeff Mitchell from the Serious Fraud Division and DOJ Trial Attorney Matt Kahn from the Criminal Division’s Anti-Fraud Division are pursuing the case.