Ashland company under investigation lands new federal contract

An Ashland-based research and development firm that has been under investigation since 2010 for allegedly misusing federal funds and bribing a government official was awarded a $370,000 federal contract in September.

In March, federal agents seized thousands of payroll, tax and personal finance documents, as well as digital data and other items from Sky Research Inc. and its owners, Sky and Anne Sky. Investigators are still sifting through the evidence, according to motions granted Nov. 9 in U.S. District Court in Eugene by Judge Thomas Coffin.

The company specializes in aerial mapping, geophysical surveys and remote sensing, and also develops equipment for detecting unexploded material. Those products are put to use in decommissioned military ranges and other areas that harbor the threat of live munitions.

The new contract, awarded Sept. 18 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Alexandria, Va., is for the development of aerial metallic-detection equipment.

A Corps spokesman, Eugene Pawlik, said it is not unusual for companies to continue to land government contracts while they are under investigation.

"Sky Research Inc. has not been excluded from receiving new contract awards. €… An investigation is not a conviction," Pawlik said in an email. "The investigation is ongoing, results of the investigation are not complete. Many firms are investigated and continue to receive contract awards throughout the federal government."

Sky Research was awarded about $160 million in federal contracts from 2004 to 2011, the timeframe in which alleged bribes were paid to a Corps contract program manager in Omaha, Neb., according to two 40-page affidavits filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene in support of search warrants. The two affidavits cite bribery, false claims, conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud and unlawful release of sensitive procurement information as suspected crimes.

No charges have been brought against the Skys or Jerry Hodgson, the Army Corps official with whom the couple allegedly dealt.

Sky was formerly known as William Henry Hovelman Jr., according to a 1989 Josephine County divorce record.

— Sam Wheeler

Read more in Wednesday's paper.

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