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Contractor pleads guilty to 1 count
Published June 18-19, 2011
By James J. Gillis/Daily News staff
PROVIDENCE - In a quiet courtroom before a handful of spectators Friday, Russell E. Spencer of Portsmouth officially turned from defendant to government witness.
Through an agreement with federal prosecutors, Spencer, 56, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiring to commit bribery in a large-scale kickback scheme. Now he will work for the prosecution in a case in which a defense contractor already has pleaded guilty to receiving $8 million in bribes, and a civilian senior engineer for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center faces bribery charges.
U.S. District Court Judge Mary M. Lisi set Dec. 16 as Spencer's sentencing date and ordered him to pay back $336,000 he obtained through the kickback operation. Spencer appeared in court with two bank checks for the full amount, but learned he must pay with a cashier's check. His defense lawyer, Terence Livingston of Providence, assured the judge that Spencer would obtain new checks for the payment.
The public account of how Spencer's long defense industry career unraveled took place in an hour. Displaying no emotion, he mostly answered yes and no questions from Lisi, and he and Livingston declined comment outside the courtroom.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee J. Vilker - who also declined comment - read from an eight-page filing that U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha's office submitted earlier this week. It detailed Spencer's role in a scheme involving Anjan Dutta-Gupta, owner of the now-defunct Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow, which was based in Georgia and employed about 100 people at an office in Middletown. Ralph A. Mariano of Johnston, a onetime NUWC senior engineer, allegedly was the ringleader of the operation, which the government said cost the Navy between $7 million and $20 million over a 15-year span.
Dutta-Gupta and Mariano were arrested in February. Dutta-Gupta has pleaded guilty and also will be sentenced in December. Mariano has pleaded innocent and awaits a trial, in which both Dutta-Gupta and Spencer have agreed to testify against him.
According to the court "information," Spencer and his wife, Debra K. Spencer, ran three defense subcontracting companies, which received weekly or bi-weekly payments from 1999 to 2010 "for work that largely had not been performed." Federal investigators questioned Spencer about the payments in June 2010, and he agreed to work with them as a "cooperating witness."
Prosecutors claim Spencer funneled money from his businesses to Dutta-Gupta, who in turn moved it to Mariano, who bumped up funding to Dutta-Gupta. By 2010, Spencer also was making weekly or bi-weekly payments of $8,000 to Mariano and $3,900 to a company owned by Mariano's girlfriend, Mary O'Rourke of Providence, according to the court documents.
They also say payments of $7,000 went to Mariano's father, Ralph Mariano Jr., of North Providence and $3,500 to Mariano's brother, Joseph J. Mariano of North Scituate. No one besides Dutta-Gupta, Ralph A. Mariano and Spencer has been charged.
Vilker declined to say how much Spencer netted from the scheme - beyond the $336,000 he was ordered to pay back. Nor would Vilker discuss any aspect of the case beyond what is listed in the court filing.

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