Three senior US Navy intelligence officials are under investigation for an alleged scheme to defraud the military for $1.6 million. The three civilian officials are suspected of contracting the purchase of rifle silencers for 200 times their manufacturing costs from a car mechanic in California, purportedly for use by the elite SEAL Team Six unit that killed Osama Bin Laden.
The Washington Post reports the silencers were designed for the "AK family of firearms," and cost around $8,000 to build. They were marked as unmarked and untraceable, and ordered for use by SEAL Team Six. Officials with the unit claim to be unaware of such an order.
The contract was for $1.6 million, but the silencers cost only $8,000 to make
None of the three officials have yet been charged in the investigation, which is ongoing, but The Washington Post reports that federal investigators failed to correctly redact the names of two of the three people involved. It names Conspirator #2 as Lee Hall — a "longtime defense official" — and speculates, citing three sources, that Conspirator #3, referred to as "David," is a senior director for Navy intelligence, David W. Landersman. Court records reportedly name the mechanic who provided the silencers as Mark Landersman: David W. Landersman's brother. The same records describe Landersman as a "down-on-his-luck" mechanic who declared personal bankruptcy in July 2012.
Bankrupt mechanic Mark Landersman bought a Porsche after completing the order
A month after his bankruptcy, court documents show Mark Landersman receiving emails from his brother at the Pentagon in which David W. Landersman discussed the construction of firearm silencers, attaching links to instructions for their creation. Mark replied with "Wow! Very Simple!" The blueprints for the silencers — referred to as "small engine mufflers" — were given to machinist Carlos C. Robles to create, for which he was paid $8,000. A day after he furnished his brother with the necessary details for silencer construction, David Landersman received a $2 million budget supplement for "studies, assessment, and research," $1.6 million of which is believed to have gone toward the silencers. Shortly after fulfilling the "muffler" contract, the recently bankrupted Mark Landersman bought four vehicles, including a Porsche 911.
In 2011, the US Navy set up a special review team to avert exactly this form of fraud after a Navy official and the owner of a small tech business were found to be conspiring in a $10 million kickback scheme. At the time, Navy secretary Ray Mabus said the military would "not accept any impropriety, kickbacks, bribery, or fraud." But the hard line appears to be ineffectual: last week three other Navy intelligence officials were charged with bribery after being found to have exchanged sensitive information for money and sex.