Congressmen may testify in R.I. Navy kickbacks case

PROVIDENCE — Lawyers for a woman charged in a $10 million kickback scheme targeting the US Navy are raising the possibility that unspecified members of Congress could be called to testify for the defense in next month’s federal trial, though members of the staffs of the state’s congressional delegation say they have not been contacted about the case.

Mary O’Rourke is one of several people charged in the case. She is set to go to trial June 4, along with her boyfriend, Ralph M. Mariano, a former Navy employee from South Arlington, Va., accused of being the ringleader, and his father, Ralph Mariano Jr. of North Providence.

The younger Mariano and O’Rourke are charged with conspiracy, theft of government property, and wire fraud, among other charges. Mariano Jr., who is in his 80s, is ­accused of tax evasion.


Prosecutors said one aspect of the wide-ranging scheme was that O’Rourke was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for doing little to no work for Navy contractor Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow, or ­ASFT, which had offices in Georgia and Rhode Island and has since gone out of business. O’Rourke is a lawyer and served as a senior vice president at ASFT, where she was hired in 1998.

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But in a memorandum filed Monday in preparation for the trial, O’Rourke’s lawyers said she introduced the contractor to members of Congress and became its face in government circles.

‘‘She was the one who congressional staffers often called with questions about the ­defense industry,’’ O’Rourke’s lawyers wrote.

They list unnamed members of Congress from Rhode Island and their staff members as people who could be called as witnesses to attest to her work. The filings also say that O’Rourke was active in local politics from a young age, and that she had previously worked on campaigns for US Senator Jack Reed and US Representative Jim Langevin.

Representatives for both said they and their staffs had not been contacted about the case.


‘‘This is a serious case, but it does not involve the delegation, because the allegations are about private contractors, not Congress,’’ Reed spokesman Chip Unruh said in a written statement.

Spokesmen for US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and US Representative David Cicilline also said their offices had not been contacted. Cicilline did not take office until just a few weeks before the first charges were filed in the case.

O’Rourke’s lawyer, William Devereaux, did not return messages seeking comment.

Ralph M. Mariano worked for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. Prosecutors said he had the power to authorize or refuse payments to contractors and used that power to ­orchestrate a scheme in which he would approve payments to ASFT, which would then funnel back some of the money to him, O’Rourke, his father, and others.

Three men have pleaded guilty in the case, including ASFT’s founder, Anjan Dutta-Gupta, former ASFT ­executive Patrick Nagle, and Russell Spencer, who has said he acted as a middleman by funneling kickbacks to Mariano through a company he owned.