Prosecutors are recommending a non-prison sentence for the key government informant at the center of a botched high-profile foreign bribery conspiracy case in Washington.
The cooperator, Richard Bistrong, a former vice president at Armor Holdings, pleaded guilty in September 2010 to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He assisted Armor in corruptly obtaining contracts that generated more than a million dollars in profit.
Bistrong cooperated in the investigation and prosecution of 22 executives and employees charged in a novel FCPA case rooted in a lengthy undercover sting over the fictitious $15 million sale of goods to the African nation of Gabon. The U.S. Justice Department abandoned the case earlier this year, however, after the government wasn't able to land a single conviction.
Defense lawyers in the sting case attacked Bistrong's credibility and chided the government for its heavy reliance on him to shape and build the novel prosecution. At trial, defense lawyers questioned who was really in charge—Bistrong or the FBI. Prosecutors contend the failure of the sting prosecution is irrelevant to whether Bistrong is entitled to leniency.
"[T]he dismissals and acquittals were not caused by a failure of Bistrong's cooperation or assistance," DOJ lawyers, including Laura Perkins and Jonathan Haray, said in court papers. "Like any other case involving cooperating witnesses, the government views Bistrong's cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of others independently from the outcome of the Gabon case against others."
DOJ said in the court papers (PDF) that "credit should be based on Bistrong's truthfulness and the completeness of his cooperation, irrespective of the outcome of any particular investigation, case, or trial."
Bistrong faces a prison term range of between 57 to 71 months, prosecutors said in court papers. The government trumpets Bistrong's cooperation in the sting case and other FCPA matters to justify the request for a downward departure from the sentencing guidelines.
If DOJ's pitch is approved, Bistrong faces anywhere from probation to six months in prison. DOJ lawyers recommended a combination of probation and home confinement.
Prosecutors said Bistrong's tips compelled the government in the first place to investigate the law enforcement and products industry. Bistrong helped the government in criminal investigations in New York and in Florida, according to court papers.
In a letter to U.S. District Judge Richard Leon this month, Bistrong said his misconduct has left him in personal and financial ruin.
"As your honor knows, I spent a period of my adult life engaged in dishonest, deceitful and illegal behavior," Bistrong said. "For all of that, I take full responsibility and will remain forever remorseful."
Bistrong concluded his letter (PDF) with this line: "I ask for your leniency, but whatever decisions you make with respect to my sentence, I will try to extract additional lessons from what will be the final chapter in a sad and ugly period of my life."
A defense lawyer for Bistrong, Brady Toensing of Washington's diGenova & Toensing, said in court papers (PDF) that "this sentencing involves extraordinary and unprecedented cooperation." Bistrong's undercover work lasted more than two-and-a-half years and involved more than 200 recorded meetings and 24,000 recorded telephone calls.
Toensing urged Leon, the judge, to fully recognize the depth and breadth of Mr. Bistrong's extraordinary cooperation so as to provide an incentive to other offenders to cooperate, especially in areas of law like the FCPA where it is difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute without cooperation."
Bistrong's sentencing hearing is set for July 31.