A Camp Pendleton official who dubbed himself the “Godfather” of the base was charged with bribery in court on Friday.
U.S. Department of Defense employee Natividad “Nate” Lara Cervantes, 64, served as the supervisor for Construction and Service Contracts at Camp Pendleton.
According to the FBI, Cervantes has been accepting bribes for years, since at least as early as September 2008. Investigators say he used his position to extort bribes from companies seeking to do business at Camp Pendleton.
In return for major contracts with businesses, investigators say Cervantes received thousands in cash payments and remodeling work on a condominium.
Cervantes was arrested on Mar. 28 on Miramar Road after allegedly accepting $10,000 in cash from a witness that was cooperating with the FBI. Cervantes did not know he was being watched by agents at the time.
The $10,000 was a partial payment of a $40,000 bribe that Cervantes had allegedly requested from a business in exchange for help in obtaining a new $4 million contract at Camp Pendleton.
The bribe was to be paid to Cervantes over a number of payments, according to investigators. The $30,000 balance would be paid after the massive contract was awarded.
At Friday’s prosecution, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy said the arrest and charges against Cervantes are an example of her “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to government corruption.
“Given the large military presence in San Diego, it is imperative that this Office ensure that the government contracting process is free from bribery and undue influence,” said Duffy. “There must be a level playing field free from corruption for all government contractors.”
Cervantes will appear in court again on May 10. He faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of bribery.
The FBI’s public corruption investigative program handled this investigation. The FBI encourages the public to report possible corruption criminal activity to the FBI’s public corruption hotline at (877) 662-7423.