State Department Official Funneled Government SUVs to Retailer in Kickback Scheme: DOJ

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
state department official funneled government suvs to retailer in kickback scheme

An unnamed State Department employee and the manager of a northern Virginia repair shop appropriated and sold government vehicles for profit, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed Thursday.

The kickback scheme, detailed in a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, saw over a dozen State Department motor pool SUVs and a truckload of tires and wheels sold through a collision repair shop in Springfield, Virginia. The shop, Car Collision Center, is the go-to repair facility for various government departments.

It also has a license to sell vehicles.

Following an investigation, the DOJ learned that an unnamed State Department official who was responsible for repair and maintenance of armored motor pool vehicles — as well as record-keeping — funneled unarmored SUVs to the manager of the repair shop, who then sold them for profit. The retailing side of the business is known as Collector’s Auto Restoration.

Most of the proceeds went to the manager and a second, unnamed person at the shop. The government official, identified only as “Person B” in court documents, pocketed the rest.

James Ratcliffe, 67, has pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of conspiracy to commit theft of government property, as well as wire fraud. The manager, who faces up to two years in prison (under federal guidelines) and a fine of up to $40,000, is required to pay back $416,020 in restitution, plus the same amount in a forfeiture money judgement.

How did the scheme come together? The DOJ document states:

According to the statement of offense, on at least two occasions in 2011 and 2012, “Person B” caused truckloads of State Department tires and wheels to be delivered to the Collision Center. “Person B” told Ratcliffe that he could sell them and keep the proceeds. Ratcliffe kept the full proceeds of his sales, which amounted to at least $7,500.

Also, beginning in or before June 2011, and continuing through at least November 2013, “Person B” and Ratcliffe took a Hummer and 12 Chevrolet Suburbans from the State Department motor pool; these vehicles were unarmored. They agreed that Ratcliffe would sell the vehicles and split the proceeds with “Person B.” Ratcliffe typically sold the misappropriated vehicles for at or near market prices. The total sales price of the misappropriated vehicles was $408,520, according to the statement of offense. Ratcliffe and “Person A” kept the majority of these proceeds for their personal benefit and the remainder went to “Person B.” Additionally, in 2015, “Person B” provided Ratcliffe with two unarmored Suburbans that Ratcliffe kept at his place of business or home. The base price of these vehicles was $48,200 each, for a total of $96,400. The two vehicles were recovered during a law enforcement investigation of the criminal activities.

The total value of the U.S. property funneled to Ratcliffe is estimated at $512,420.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • Master Baiter Master Baiter on Jan 29, 2017

    I'd like one of those equipped with the mini gun that pops up from the roof. . .

  • 240SX_KAT 240SX_KAT on Jan 30, 2017

    Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of scumbags. I had my car 'repaired' by these clowns back in the 90s. Bad color match, runs, overspray and tape edges. I was like they spent a good 15 minutes working on prep. After giving them three tries to fix it I gave up and lived with it. At least the paint didn't peel with time.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?