A Federal Bureau of Investigation official has been sentenced to over three years in prison for accepting bribes during a data center construction project.

The District of Idaho’s Department of Justice this week said the now-former agent James Heslep had been sentenced to 39 months for receiving a bribe by a public official and 36 months for making subscribing a false federal income tax return, to be served concurrently.

“A 39-month sentence is significant and sends the appropriate message to Mr. Heslep and other public officials entrusted with influence over government contracts,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr. “Public service is a public trust. The people of Idaho must be confident that when that trust is breached, there will be severe consequences no matter who you are or where you work. This investigation, this prosecution, and this sentence delivers that message clearly and forcefully.”

For more breaking data center news, features, and opinions, be sure to subscribe to DCD's newsletter

Bribery during FBI’s 2017 data center project

front-view-fbi-pocatello-facility-111819.jpg
– FBI

James Heslep was a Management and Program Analyst with the FBI, and responsible for managing construction and services contracts for FBI buildings across the country.

In 2017, the FBI broke ground on the construction of a data center in Pocatello, Idaho. The Pocatello Data Center project involved the construction of a two-building, 140,000 square-foot complex with the aim of consolidating almost 100 DOJ & FBI data centers from across the country. The facility opened in 2019.

Heslep was the Contracting Officer Representative (COR) for the project, holding management and oversight responsibilities over the data center’s construction.

Robert Bailey owned a construction management and operations company called L-1, and knew Heslep through a previous construction project.

From 2016 through 2018, Bailey and L-1 made illegal payments and gifts to Heslep hoping to get beneficial contracts and treatment on the data center project.

Bailey and L-1 illegally made 18 deposits totaling $120,000 into a bank account controlled by Heslep from which he made payments on loans, mortgage, and credit card, as well as car, holiday, and luxury items including a $5,300 pair of diamond earrings.

Bailey and L-1 also threw Heslep a fiftieth birthday party which included first-class airfare to Texas, hotel accommodation, and tickets to a Dallas Cowboys football game; a beach house rental in North Carolina; first-class Amtrak train tickets; invitations to an L-1 company holiday party; and tickets to a Washington Nationals baseball game.

In return, Heslep made authorized $16,000 monthly per diem payments from the FBI to Bailey for L-1 employees who stayed at Bailey’s house instead of a hotel, asked for and included Bailey’s edits in a $12.2 million construction contract later awarded to his firm, and convinced FBI management to pay higher labor rates to L-1 staff.

“Heslep abused his position as a government contracting officer. He accepted bribes of cash, sports tickets, and other items of value in exchange for granting favorable contracting terms. This sentencing shows that this kind of fraud will not be tolerated,” said Douglas B. Bruce, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General Denver Field Office.

Heslep 52, of Gainesville, Virginia, pleaded guilty in December. As well as the jail time, he will see three years of supervised release, forfeit $128,128, and pay $15,353 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

Bailey, 63, of Centreville, Virginia, pleaded guilty to paying a bribe to a public official, and his sentencing is set for May 5, 2021.