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Former BLM official sentenced to prison for bribery scheme

A former official for the Bureau of Reclamation was sentenced Monday to 30 months in federal prison for accepting bribes and tax fraud.

In October 2019, Fredrick Leavitt, the former director of the financial management office for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Region, which includes the Hoover Dam, pleaded guilty to honest services fraud conspiracy and conspiracy to defraud the federal government, court records show.

“You have committed two of the more serious white-collar crimes,” U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon told Leavitt during his sentencing hearing Monday. “Public bribery damages our democracy — people already don’t trust our government and you make it worse when you accept bribes and personally benefit from your position.”

While working for accounting firm L.L. Bradford & Company between February 2015 and February 2016, Leavitt accepted bribes and kickbacks from Dustin Lewis, a former Henderson CPA, court records show.

Leavitt then steered a Southern California Public Power Authority audit contract to L.L. Bradford. The head of that firm, Lance Bradford, was indicted in August 2019 on 28 counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of false and fraudulent tax returns.

Prosecutors have said that Lewis and Leavitt also conspired to file fraudulent tax forms in 2013 on behalf of six business entities that claimed $11 million in phony business deductions, causing a tax loss of more than $1.5 million.

“The evidence was absolutely overwhelming in this case,” prosecutor Patrick Burns said Monday.

Lewis pleaded guilty in January 2020 for his role in the scheme. He is set to be sentenced in August, court records show.

The judge on Monday also ordered Leavitt to spend three years on supervised release after his prison sentence, during which he will have to complete 100 hours of community service. He will also be required to pay about $704,000 in restitution.

Nine of Leavitt’s friends and former coworkers addressed the judge on Monday, asking for leniency. Defense attorneys also asked for a lower sentence so Leavitt could continue caring for his wife’s health problems.

“The worst thing you can lose is your reputation, and he’s lost that,” defense attorney Paul Padda said.

Leavitt cried while speaking to the judge for nearly 20 minutes during the hearing. He apologized multiple times, and said he “made a mistake.”

“I changed my plea to guilty because I am,” Leavitt said. “When I step back and look at the facts of the matter, I am.”

The judge, however, told Leavitt that he made “decisions, not mistakes.” Gordon noted that Leavitt used some of the bribery money to purchase a luxury car and travel to Germany.

“You were greedy and had to devise schemes to get bribes and steal from the government by tax fraud,” the judge said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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