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Feds: Ex-USMMA worker who took bribes gets 3 years in prison

Ex-Merchant Marine Academy employee John McCormick, pictured leaving

Ex-Merchant Marine Academy employee John McCormick, pictured leaving federal court in Central Islip on Jan. 20, 2017, after pleading guilty to bribery, was sentenced to 3 years in prison on Oct. 27. Credit: Ed Betz

A former employee at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point who admitted accepting bribes from contractors was sentenced Friday to 3 years in prison, federal officials said.

John McCormick, 60, of Atlantic Beach, who as a planner-estimator oversaw building maintenance and repair contracts, ran a kickback scheme for more than a decade during which he got 10 percent of what the contractors were paid, prosecutors said.

McCormick was known to contractors as “Ten Percent McCormick,” referring to the payments required to do work at the academy, prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty in January.

The total amount of the kickbacks was about $150,000, officials said.

U.S. District Judge Arthur D. Spatt in Central Islip ordered McCormick’s 3-year sentence to be followed by 3 years of supervised release for receiving a bribe as a public official.

Spatt also fined McCormick $10,000 and ordered him to forfeit $78,000 “for funds illegally received by McCormick as part of the scheme,” according to a news release from Bridget M. Rohde, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District.

“McCormick abused his position of trust by putting government contracts up for sale in order to line his pockets with bribe money,” Rohde said in a statement.

McCormick’s attorney, Jeffrey Groder of Mineola, said after his client’s guilty plea in January that when McCormick was arrested in November 2014 it was the day before he had planned to retire.

“Obviously, you know Mr. McCormick is disappointed at the sentence but he’s accepted responsibility and hopes to put this behind him and rejoin his family as soon as possible,” Groder said Friday after the sentencing.

The McCormick case was part of a larger investigation into corruption in the issuing of contracts at the academy, officials have said. That investigation was separate from the school’s struggle to deal with sexual assault, sexual harassment and bullying of midshipmen — both women and men — at the school.

Although McCormick theoretically faced up to 15 years when he was sentenced, suggested federal sentencing guidelines called for a term of 41 to 57 months in prison.

Groder has said his client began working at the academy in 1996, after a career in the Coast Guard that began in 1974.

Federal officials said McCormick’s kickback scheme did not start until 2001.

In court papers, officials said the investigation began after “numerous complaints had been made . . . that McCormick was increasing the cost of USMMA-related contracts by fixing bids and steering USMMA contracts to contractors who would pay him cash ‘kickbacks.’ ”

In one instance, the papers said, agents witnessed and recorded a general contractor paying McCormick $1,000 in cash “at the USMMA for arranging [the contractor’s] company construction work at the USMMA.”

With Joan Gralla

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