Four charged with defrauding government of millions

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Four men have been charged with exploiting an Army program at Kirtland Air Force Base and defrauding the federal government of millions of dollars in an alleged five-year scheme that ended several years ago.

An Albuquerque federal grand jury returned the indictment Tuesday for Milton Boutte, 72, of Moriarty; George Lowe, 55, of Fort Washington, Md.; and Jose Diaz, 58, and Arturo Vargas, 54, both of El Paso, for allegedly carrying out the scheme from October 2004 through February 2009, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice claims the men submitted fraudulent invoices to federal agencies and fraudulently participated in a government program that promoted minority-owned small businesses.

Boutte was director of the Army’s now-defunct Big Crow program office located on KAFB and allegedly conspired with the other men involved in the scheme. Big Crow involved two aircraft used for electronic warfare testing.

Diaz is the CEO and president of the company MIRATEK, which has done work for multiple government agencies, has more than 50 contracts and a contract backlog of $25 million.

In 1995, Diaz, referred to as “Joe” in the indictment, enrolled his El Paso-based company in a U.S. Small Business Administration program and was awarded a no-bid contract for $1.3 million through the program to support the Big Crow office.

More than $500,000 of the contract was allegedly used to pay Lowe, a lobbyist, and his firm, Broadcreek Associates, even though lobbying was not within the scope of MIRATEK’s contract.

In 2004, after MIRATEK was no longer eligible for the SBA program, Diaz and Vargas, an owner of another El Paso-based and minority-owned small business, allegedly created another company – Vartek LLC – to use in MIRATEK’s place.

Vartek was then awarded two contracts under the SBA program, each worth more than $3 million, also to provide technical and analytical support to the Big Crow office.

Under those contracts, the defendants allegedly fraudulently claimed and obtained more than $5.8 million for lobbyists, consultants and unauthorized contractors.

At least $506,000 was paid to Lowe and Broadcreek Associates.

According to its website, MIRATEK has offices in El Paso, Albuquerque and Washington, D.C.

The company has worked on contracts with such federal government agencies as the U.S. Department of Energy, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Air Force and the National Security Administration, along with Sandia National Laboratories.

It also won awards from the SBA and the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Diaz remains the company’s CEO and president. No one at MIRATEK’s offices was available for comment Wednesday.

Charges against the men include conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud against the United States, and making false, fictitious and fraudulent claims.

Arraignments have yet to be scheduled.

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