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Navy kickbacks defendant requests new lawyer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- A former employee of the U.S. Navy who admitted leading a kickback scheme that cost the Navy $18 million is asking for a new lawyer less than two weeks after pleading guilty to conspiracy, theft of government property and tax evasion.

Ralph Mariano filed papers in U.S. District Court in Providence on Tuesday saying there has been a "complete breakdown" in the relationship between him and his lawyer, Robert Corrente. Corrente is a former U.S. attorney, and Mariano says he has a conflict because he was leading the office while it was investigating the scheme.

Corrente would not comment when asked Wednesday about the filing.

Mariano says in his filing that he does not want to change his guilty plea, but wants a new lawyer to help him before he is sentenced in September.

Corrente left the office of U.S. attorney in late June 20009. Mariano says in his filing that Corrente told him he sought permission from Washington to represent Mariano and was granted it as of June 2011. Mariano says that last month, he discovered that Corrente had authorized a subpoena in a related case in May 2009, and calls it a conflict of interest.

Mariano also says that he has lost trust in his lawyer and that their communications and level of discourse has suffered a serious breakdown, and complained that Corrente has frequently asked him to pay his outstanding legal bills even though Mariano has already paid Corrente $230,000.

As an example, he says that during his plea hearing the judge asked him if he was amused by something, and complains that Corrente failed to clarify to the judge that Mariano was nervous and any smirk was not intended to be disrespectful, and later refused to forward a letter of apology to the court on Mariano's behalf. He says Corrente told Mariano he "got better than he deserved" and made an apparent comparison to Joseph Caramadre, an estate lawyer who recently tried unsuccessfully to vacate a guilty plea before federal court in Providence.

Mariano is one of six people charged in the case, and all have pleaded guilty. He acknowledged he used his position at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center to add money to contracts held by Georgia-based contractor Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow. In return, the contractor funneled kickbacks to Mariano, corrupt subcontractors, members of Mariano's family, its own staff and others.