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Witness to face bribery charge
Published June 15, 2011
By James J. Gillis/Daily News staff
A Portsmouth man accused of running three companies connected to an elaborate defense contracting kickback scheme faces a federal bribery charge.
Russell E. Spencer will be arraigned on Friday at 3 p.m. on a single bribery charge in U.S. District Court in Providence before Judge Mary M. Lisi., according to the U.S. attorney's office.
For 11 years, Spencer, retired from the defense industry, worked as an independent consultant who developed three companies serving as a conduit for Navy funds that were funneled back to a civilian Navy programmer and a defense contractor overseeing a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme, according to court papers.
The bribery charge is part of the case involving Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow, the defunct Georgia-based defense firm that once had 100 workers at its Middletown office.
According to an eight-page document released by the U.S. District Court, federal authorities confronted Spencer with evidence of his involvement in the alleged scheme, which prosecutors say involved between $7 million and $20 million.
Earlier documents indicated that Spencer agreed to become a cooperating prosecution witness in the case against Anjan Dutta-Gupta, president of Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow, and Ralph Mariano, civilian program manager and senior systems engineer with the Navy's Naval Sea Systems Command.
The document filed Monday indicated that starting in 1999, Spencer filed phony invoices, seeking payment for work that mostly was never performed. U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha's office led the investigation. Neronha's spokesman, Jim Martin, declined this morning to discuss the case involving Spencer or to say whether he has reached a plea deal in connection with his role as a cooperating witness.
In earlier reports, the U.S. attorney's office listed Spencer and his wife, Debra, as co-owners of the three subcontracting businesses involved in the alleged scheme. Debra K. Spencer has not been charged.
Two other figures in the case are awaiting court action. Dutta-Gupta, the owner of ASFT, pleaded guilty to his role in the case and awaits sentencing. Mariano, considered the major force in the scheme, has pleaded innocent and is free on bail.
The latest information indicates that by last summer, Spencer was making a total of $27,650 in weekly payments to a series of people, including Mariano, Mariano's brother, Mariano's girlfriend and his father. Only Ralph Mariano is facing charges.
"(Spencer) submitted inflated invoices to ASFT to justify the payments," the document says. "It was part and object of the conspiracy for ASFT and Dutta-Gupta to enrich themselves through corrupt means, by giving things of public value to public official Ralph Mariano, his family members and associates, through the use of subcontractors operated by defendant Russell Spencer, with the intent to influence official acts and to commit a fraud on the United States."
The document filed Monday indicates that Spencer was making weekly payments of $8,000 to Mariano, $3,900 to Mary O'Rourke, Mariano's girlfriend, $7,000 to Mariano's father, Ralph Mariano Jr. of North Providence, and $3,500 to Mariano's brother, Joseph J. Mariano of Scituate.

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