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RI man pleads guilty in Navy kickbacks case

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- One of several people charged in a federal investigation into an alleged $10 million kickback scheme targeting the U.S. Navy pleaded guilty Wednesday to four tax evasion charges.

Ralph Mariano Jr., 81, of North Providence, changed his plea Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi in Providence.

Mariano's son, Ralph M. Mariano, a former Navy employee from South Arlington, Va., is accused of being the ringleader of the scheme. Prosecutors say he used Navy contractors to funnel government money back to himself, his father and others. The younger Mariano and his girlfriend, Mary O'Rourke, are scheduled to go to trial June 3 on charges including conspiracy, theft of government property and wire fraud.

Prosecutor Lee Vilker said in court Wednesday that the government had evidence that Mariano Jr. received nearly $2.6 million from the scheme. The Internal Revenue Service calculated that he owed more than $488,000 for unpaid taxes from 2006 to 2009, Vilker said.

Mariano Jr. faces a maximum 20 years in prison and a $400,000 fine when he is sentenced. Lisi scheduled a sentencing hearing for Aug. 16.

Prosecutors say that the younger Mariano had the power in his job at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center to authorize or refuse payments to contractors and that he used that power to orchestrate a scheme in which he would approve payments to Georgia-based contractor Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow. In return, prosecutors say, the contractor gave him and others kickbacks.

Three other men have also pleaded guilty in the case, including ASFT's founder, Anjan Dutta-Gupta, former ASFT executive Patrick Nagle, and Russell Spencer, an ASFT subcontractor who has said he acted as a middleman.