A former department head at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland has been sentenced to eight months in prison after admitting that he took gifts in money from a business looking to secure government contracts.
From 2009 and 2019, David Laufer, 64, of Pittsburgh, formerly of Bethesda, worked as chief of the Prosthetics and Orthotics Department at Walter Reed. It was during his time on the job that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland claims that Laufer and his wife accepted cash, airline tickets, lodging and entertainment tickets and other kickbacks from Germantown-based Pinnacle Orthopedic Services.
In return for the gifts, he admitted in a plea deal that he helped establish blanket purchase agreements, or BPAs, for the company that the department used to order and purchase prosthetics and orthotics materials. The agreement allowed employees to order from the company without a credit card or undergoing a formal contract for purchases.
He is also accused of restricting the availability of those agreements so manufacturers and distributors for the company were unable to sell directly to Walter Reed. That, according to federal prosecutors, resulted in those companies being forced to sell their goods to Walter Reed through Pinnacle. He was accused of steering millions of government dollars toward Pinnacle.
“Laufer’s illegal acts not only unfairly helped Pinnacle Orthopedic Services, his actions also hurt other businesses and caused the U.S. government to pay more for goods and services than it should have,” Acting United States Attorney Jonathan Lenzner said.
Laufner is also accused of not disclosing the gifts to the government, which he is required to do by law. He also admitted to regularly working closely with the owner of Pinnacle, Bruce Thomas.
“Thomas regularly interacted with Laufer about Pinnacle’s business with Walter Reed, including the award of BPAs, future BPA funding, orders charged against the BPAs, and fulfillment of orders,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Laufner, in addition to federal prison time for the acceptance of gratuities by a public official, also received one year of supervised release, four months of which is to be served in home confinement.
“We are committed to holding accountable public officials like David Laufer who undermine the market and abuse their positions in government to benefit themselves at the expense of the taxpayers,” Lenzner said.
Meanwhile, Thomas was sentenced on Sept. 9 to eight months in federal prison followed by a year of supervised release, which includes four months of home confinement.