Naval Weapons Station

Two people were sentenced to prison for receiving kickbacks for contracts at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station in Hanahan. File

A former quality-control officer at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station who demanded kickbacks from construction businesses he monitored is going to prison.

So is a contracting officer who accepted bribes for steering work to favored subcontractors.

Joseph Hamrick, 68, of Goose Creek, a former quality-control officer who monitored the work of subcontractors, pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks involving federal contracts.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel sentenced Hamrick to 12 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $50,000 fine.

Hamrick worked for Chugach Government Solutions, the prime contractor from 2007 through 2014 at Joint Base Charleston, which includes the Naval Weapons Station and Charleston Air Force Base. He later held the same position at Aspen Construction, another government contractor.

Beginning in 2011, Hamrick demanded that subcontractors pay him kickbacks to approve their work. He received at least $40,000 in illegal payments through 2014, as well as hundreds of free lunches and other gifts.

A key witness kept a ledger of his payments to Hamrick and helped investigators nail him. 

"I wish I had never met Joe Hamrick," Rick Darnell, a former subcontractor at the Naval Weapons Station, said in federal court last week. "He destroyed my business, my family, things I had worked for my entire life."

Darnell said he paid the money because Hamrick said he would pull his badge and "make your life a living hell" if he didn't.

Darnell said he knew what he did was wrong. He pleaded guilty to concealing a felony and was given three years probation.

"I'm very proud of what he did for the government," assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart said of Darnell's cooperation.

Barbara Powell, 59, of Charleston, was also part of the scheme. As a government contracting officer, she awarded and administered construction contracts.

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Between 2011 and 2015, Powell solicited and accepted dozens of bribes from subcontractors, totaling at least $15,000. In exchange, she steered projects to favored firms and forwarded them bid proposals submitted by their competitors.

Powell pleaded guilty to bribery of a public employee and was sentenced to six months in prison, three years of supervised release and a $12,500 fine.

Attorney Leslie Sarji pleaded for probation because Powell is a pastor's wife who has helped the community and cares for her children and a grandchild.

Gergel gave her less time than he could have, but he said he couldn't ignore this kind of criminal activity on a military base.

"It's shameful conduct," he said. "I'm deeply distressed that an employee of the federal government was taking kickbacks. ... We need to deter this kind of conduct. What I've heard out there is pretty distressing."

Hamrick and Powell were indicted in May. The case was investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Reach Dave Munday at 843-937-5553.