Ashland contractor faces federal bribery charge

Federal prosecutors claim an Ashland research and development firm bribed a government official for help in acquiring nine U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contracts worth $171 million.

The claim was made Thursday in the first filing in federal court on the case in three years. Sky Research Inc.'s owner, who goes by the single name Sky, is scheduled to enter a plea at 11 a.m. Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland before Judge Marco A. Hernandez.

Federal prosecutors have been investigating Sky Research, whose headquarters are located near the Ashland airport, since 2010. In March 2012, federal agents seized thousands of payroll, tax and personal finance documents as well as digital data and other items from the company offices and the home of Sky and his wife, Anne Sky, in 1000 block of East Main Street.

Sky Research Inc. specializes in aerial mapping, geophysical surveys and remote sensing, and developed equipment for detecting unexploded material. The company's products were put to use in decommissioned military ranges and other areas that could harbor live munitions.

Prosecutors intend to seek a charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States against Sky Research Inc., also known as SRI, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Portland. They allege SRI bribed Jerry Hodgson, Corps program manager who oversaw the Department of Defense's Military Munitions Response Program in Omaha, Neb., with trips and other gifts over 11 years in exchange for steering $171 million worth of contracts to the company. SRI received $77 million total under the nine contracts, the latest court filing states.

The bribes included a car, an Alaskan fishing expedition, meals and accommodations in Costa Rica and Vietnam and $4,000 in cash, among other items, according to Thursday's filing. Affidavits filed in 2012 also allege the Skys provided Hodgson with three personal assistants over a span of eight years to fulfill sexual favors for him. 

The earlier affidavits allege Hodgson's insider help on the company's bids was so well known that some employees used the term "Jerrying it" when referring to an upcoming contract the company intended to fix.

Sky could not be reached for comment. His wife, Anne Sky, told The Oregonian she could not comment when reached Thursday. She is listed as the company's vice president.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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