A former Air Force captain who oversaw contracts in Afghanistan pleaded guilty Tuesday to an influence-peddling charge stemming from his post-military employment lobbying for a vendor.
Adam Pudenz, 35, admitted he violated a law that bans former federal employees from trying to influence government action on matters in which they were involved. He also pleaded guilty to making a false statement to military investigators. A magistrate judge accepted the pleas at a hearing in Sioux City, Iowa.
Authorities say Pudenz was paid more than $250,000 after leaving the service to lobby his former colleagues for payments on behalf of a military boot manufacturer that won contracts he had helped award and administer.
The charges each carry up to five years in prison. But prosecutors have agreed not to advocate for a prison term or fine under the plea agreement that also calls for Pudenz to forfeit to the government a home he owns in Iowa, assessed at $277,000, court records show. A judge will decide on the precise sentence at a later date.
Pudenz, who has been free since his arrest in 2013, was released after the hearing. A phone number for him rang unanswered Tuesday and the public defender’s office, which is representing him, declined to comment.
While stationed at Camp Eggers in Kabul from 2009 to 2010, Pudenz worked on contracts to purchase clothing, shoes and boots for Afghan military and police forces. Two of those contracts, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, went to Kabul Milli Trading Co.
After leaving the Air Force in January 2011, investigators say Pudenz represented Kabul Milli during several meetings about payments with the Air Force officer who had taken his job. He also represented the company during meetings with another employee, including one in which he sought an outstanding payment of $780,000, and repeatedly emailed government officials seeking payments for its work, they say.
A criminal complaint filed when Pudenz was initially arrested and charged in 2013 shows the company paid him $247,000 for six months of consulting work. Pudenz told investigators that was a retainer, and that he had an agreement to submit and track the company’s contract invoices for $500 apiece, according to the complaint, which said he also consulted for a second vendor, Afghan Vision Group.
Pudenz admitted that he falsely told investigators in November 2011 that he did not discuss his employment with Kabul Milli until March or April 2011, after he had left the Air Force. In reality, Pudenz knew he had communicated with a company official as early as December 2010 and multiple times prior to March 2011, court records show.
Investigators say Pudenz had sought guidance from Air Force officials in December 2010 about post-government employment restrictions, saying he was considering working as a consultant in Afghanistan to help clothing businesses become sustainable.
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