By Greg Moran
UT San Diego
August 24, 2012
SAN DIEGO — The owners of two defense contracting firms pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday to charges that they bribed officials at North Island Naval Air Station in exchange for millions in government contracts.
The indictment follows one in March that charged seven people, including four Navy officials who worked at North Island, with similar bribery charges. The seven pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing Sept. 10.
In the indictment unsealed Thursday, Robert Ehnow, 46, of Coronado, and Joanne Loehr, 52, of La Jolla, were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, money laundering and wire fraud. Each also faces six charges of bribery.
Ehnow owns L&N Industrial Tool and Supply, a defense contracting business in Poway that declared bankruptcy last year. Loehr is the owner and president of Centerline Industrial Inc., also a Poway defense contracting company.
The charges are the latest in the investigation into a bribery scheme at the base that investigators said went on for seven years.
The indictment alleges that Ehnow and Loehr plied Navy officials with more than $1 million in an array of benefits. Those included home remodeling services, cash, flat screen televisions and gift cards to stores.
The indictment said the scheme involved the defense contractors submitting bogus invoices to the Defense Department that claimed to be for legitimate services done under existing government contracts. But the invoices were really for the gifts, goods and bribes the contracts were handing out to the Navy officials, the indictment said.
In some cases, the bogus invoices contained a markup, prosecutors said. In return, the Navy officials steered millions of dollars in government business to the companies.
Loehr’s lawyer, Mark Adams, declined to comment. Ehnow’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.