Former Navy Senior Chief Sentenced to Two Years for Accepting Bribes

The Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) leads the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Curtis (FFG 38) and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) in formation off the coast of Southern California (U.S. Navy photo)

A former Navy logistician will serve two years behind bars for taking some $25,000 in cash bribes while conducting humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.

Donald Bunch, 46, of Pace, Florida, must also pay back the money plus a $5,000 fine, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled in Florida District Court. The sentence was announced on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Justice in a news release.

Bunch worked at the Humanitarian Assistance Yard at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan as a senior chief petty officer from February to August 2009, according to department officials. In his role, he assisted in the purchase of supplies from Afghan vendors for use in responding to urgent humanitarian relief needs in Afghanistan. It was through this duty that Bunch arranged and accepted bribes from vendors used to purchase food and other humanitarian supplies.

Bunch was tasked with resupplying goods such as rice, beans and clothing for the Humanitarian Assistance Yard and for selecting vendors from a pre-approved list to purchase the goods.

"In connection with his guilty plea, Bunch admitted that he had been instructed by his predecessor to rotate among the vendors," Justice officials wrote in the news release announcing his sentencing.

Instead, Bunch encouraged the Afghan vendors to bribe him so that he would select them to receive the HA yard's business. He funneled the more frequent and lucrative contracts to the vendors who padded his pockets, officials said.

According to information released by DOJ, "Bunch sent greeting cards stuffed with proceeds of the bribes to his wife and used the money to pay for the construction of a new home."

The case was investigated by agencies including the FBI, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Attorney Daniel P. Butler of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David L. Goldberg of the Northern District of Florida prosecuted the case, officials said in the release.

Bunch pleaded guilty to accepting bribes on Sept. 18, 2015. According to an online resume, Bunch left the Navy in mid-2011 and most recently worked as a logistician for Mantech International Corporation.

Bribery schemes plagued efforts in Afghanistan across the span of the 14-year war. SIGAR, which identified a staggering $17 billion in wasted spending during the war, list ten other troops and U.S. government civilians who pleaded guilty or were sentenced in Afghanistan bribery schemes in 2015 alone.

In December, two U.S. soldiers, Sgt. 1st Class Ramiro Pena and Staff Sgt. Matthew Louis Bailly, were sentenced to 24 months and 12 months respectively, for a bribery scheme that operated out of the same Humanitarian Assistance Yard where Bunch worked.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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