Ex-VA official to be sentenced for selling confidential info

CLEVELAND (AP) — A former director of two Veterans Affairs medical centers in Ohio who admitted to providing confidential information to companies seeking work with the VA is scheduled to be sentenced.

Attorneys for William Montague, 64, asked a federal judge in Akron to sentence him on Friday to just over four years in prison.

The Brecksville man pleaded guilty to 64 corruption-related counts in September 2014 and agreed to cooperate with the government. A plea agreement calls for him to forfeit nearly $400,000.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland declined to comment on Montague’s case on Thursday and did not provide an answer to what Montague’s maximum sentence might be. Montague’s attorneys did not return phone calls seeking comment, but said in a court filing that a 51-month sentence would be a “complete acceptance of his responsibility for his acknowledged wrongdoing.” The filing suggested that Montague could receive as many as 6 ½ years in prison depending on how he’s classified under sentencing guidelines.

Montague served as director of a Cleveland VA medical center from 1995 until his retirement in 2010 and became interim director of a VA medical center in Dayton in March 2011 for nine months after an investigation found that a dentist at the facility didn’t regularly change latex gloves or properly sterilize equipment, prompting concerns that patients may have been infected with diseases such as hepatitis.

Prosecutors said in an indictment that while Montague served as director of both facilities, he funneled undisclosed information to companies seeking VA contracts to give them a head start on competitors. The companies paid Montague through a consulting business called House of Montague that he formed in 2008.

One of those businesses was owned by Michael Forlani, a central figure in long-running corruption probe that ensnared top Cuyahoga County officials and dozens of business owners. An indictment included excerpts of telephone conversations between Montague and Forlani captured by FBI wiretaps. The indictment said Montague continued to help Forlani after the FBI raided Forlani’s offices in August 2008.

According to the indictment, Montague, while a VA director in Cleveland, interceded on behalf of Forlani, whose company built a $125 million office and parking garage complex next to the Cleveland medical center and was seeking to lease space to VA affiliates. The indictment said Montague accepted gifts and money from Forlani for information about VA projects in Ohio, Erie, Pennsylvania, and Buffalo, New York. Forlani was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2013 after pleading guilty to racketeering conspiracy and fraud charges.

Montague testified last year at the federal trial of Mark Farmer, an architect who paid him $70,000 in fees for information that led to Farmer’s company winning a design project for a VA medical center in Los Angeles. Montague was interim director of the Dayton VA facility when Farmer began paying him for information.

A jury convicted Farmer of charges related to the scheme last year. The same judge in Akron who will sentence Montague on Friday sentenced Farmer to 33 months in prison.