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John McCormick, former MMA employee, pleads guilty to bribery

John McCormick pleaded guilty Friday, Jan. 20, 2017,

John McCormick pleaded guilty Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, to taking kickbacks while handling maintenance contracts for the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point. He is leaving federal court in Central Islip. Credit: Ed Betz

The former employee who oversaw building maintenance contracts at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Central Islip to accepting bribes from contractors.

John McCormick, 60, of Atlantic Beach, who was a planner-estimator, said in entering his plea: “As a public official at the Merchant Marine Academy, I accepted money from contractors” for them to get work.

Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Burton Ryan said that McCormick ran the kickback scheme for about a decade during which he got 10 percent of what the contractors were paid. The total amount of the kickbacks was about $150,000, Ryan said.

“The receipt of bribes on government contracts threatens the quality of the work being performed and the integrity of the contracting process,” Robert Capers, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District, said in a statement. “Such brazen conduct will never be tolerated and the defendant will now be held accountable for his crimes.”

McCormick’s attorney, Jeffrey Groder, of Mineola, said after the plea that his client “accepts responsibility and hopes to put this behind him.”

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

Although McCormick, who is free on $500,000 bond, theoretically faces up to 15 years when he is sentenced, suggested federal sentencing guidelines call for a term of 41 to 57 months in prison.

As part of his plea, McCormick also agreed to forfeit $60,000 he taken in as part of the scheme.

Defense attorney Groder said that his client was arrested in November 2014, a day before he has planned to retire.

At the time of McCormick’s arrest, Groder 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 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.”

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