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Former official gets prison over Afghanistan bribe

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A federal judge in Atlanta sentenced a former Defense Department official on Wednesday to a year and eight months in prison for taking nearly $100,000 in bribes from a company seeking a contract in Afghanistan.

Desi Deandre Wade, 40, of Climax, Georgia, was arrested in August after traveling to Atlanta from Afghanistan for the Fire Rescue International Conference, officials said.

While at the convention, Wade, then the Defense Department's chief of fire and emergency services in Kabul, accepted $95,000 in cash from an Afghan-based company in exchange for the guarantee of a government contract, prosecutors said.

The cash was in Wade's backpack when he was arrested, authorities said.

The contractor had contacted U.S. authorities in Afghanistan last summer and reported that Wade was soliciting bribes, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney told Reuters.

The contractor agreed to work with the government as a confidential informant in the investigation, McBurney said.

Under the scheme, Wade would provide the company with other bidders' quotes so that it would be the low bidder and get the contract, according to prosecutors. Wade, who earlier had accepted $4,000 from the same contractor, pleaded guilty to the charges in December and was fired from his job.

He could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for the crime.

"Bribery costs our taxpayers countless millions every year," said Sally Yates, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

"When a corrupt contractor like this defendant demands a bribe, he builds that cost into the bid - meaning that, in the end, the taxpayer bears the expense of the corrupt contractor's greed."

(Editing By Colleen Jenkins and Mohammad Zargham)

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