Ringleader of Navy Kickback Scheme Pleads Guilty

May 30, 2013

The architect of a scheme to defraud the U.S. Navy of millions of dollars has pleaded guilty to three felonies that could send him to prison for years. 

Ralph Mariano, a former civilian employee at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal government property, the theft of government property and tax evasion.  He faces up to 20 years in prison and $600,000 in fines at his sentencing September 5th.

Ralph Mariano leaves the federal courthouse in Providence Thursday after pleading guilty to three felonies in a Navy kickback scheme.
Credit Flo Jonic / RIPR

Pleading guilty seemed to come hard to Mariano. Several times during the hour-long court appearance, he took long pauses before admitting to his guilt. Prosecutors say he stole between seven and $20 million from the Navy by padding the contracts of corrupt contractors, who would then send him checks.

U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Peter Neronha said the government was prepared to go to trial Monday if Mariano had not entered the plea.

“These are dollars that should go directly to funding weapons systems the American taxpayers and the American people,” said Neronha, “and when it’s diverted to fund a lavish personal lifestyle to stay that it is wrong is a vast understatement.”

Mariano’s girlfriend, Mary O’Rourke, pleaded guilty to theft of government property. She and Mariano were the last of six defendants to plead guilty to the Navy kickback scheme.

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