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Clarkston business owner accused of bribing federal official to win construction contract

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 23, 2020

A Clarkston business owner has been indicted on federal charges of bribing a Bureau of Indian Affairs official to gain access to confidential information that gave him an unfair advantage when bidding for government contracts.

Christopher Hamilton Clemens, 39, owns Hamilton’s West, a construction management company that works on federal projects, according to the company website.

The indictment alleges Clemens bribed Calandra Charging Eagle, 52, a contracting official at the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Clemens is accused of paying a $10,700 debt owed by Charging Eagle to the Sandia Resort and Casino in Albuquerque in return for Charging Eagle using her position to steer contracts to Clemens’ company. The bribery occurred between June and October 2018, according to the indictment.

Charging Eagle provided Clemens with confidential information on the Bureau of Indian Affairs process for selecting contractors, including the Independent Government Cost Estimate, according to the indictment. With Charging Eagle’s help, Clemens received a contract valued at more than $500,000 to provide lightning protection improvements at the Navajo Nation’s Pine Hill School.

“The integrity of the federal procurement process is critical to ensuring that public funds are used appropriately and that precious and limited funds are used for improvements of tribal schools and facilities,” said William Hyslop, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, in a statement. “I commend the excellent work of both the Department of Interior Office of Inspector General and the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General in investigating this scheme.”

Charging Eagle is charged with accepting a bribe as a public official. Both defendants and Hamilton’s West LLC were also charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and theft of government property.

If convicted, Clemens and Charging Eagle could face up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $250,000, according to a statement by Hyslop’s office. Theft of government property carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, while the conspiracy charges carry a maximum penalty of five years incarceration.

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