Florida Case Involves Firms Close to Murtha

Posted April 29, 2009 at 6:42pm

A federal court in Florida is scheduled to begin a criminal trial next month featuring an intriguing cast of characters, with multiple links to the PMA Group and other entities in the orbit of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) that are under investigation by the FBI. Neither Murtha nor PMA is mentioned in the Florida case.

While the case is being litigated in Florida, key elements of the government’s allegations refer to contracts provided to companies with long-standing ties to Murtha.

The indictment — which was unsealed by a federal judge in February — alleges a complicated scheme in which a former Defense Department employee who managed contracts was also partners with and being paid by contractors that he was overseeing and hiring for the Air Force.

The indictment in the case alleges that an Air Force employee, Mark O’Hair, steered contracts to his business partners, Richard Schaller and Theodore Sumrall, and then split the proceeds of those contracts with the men.

Lawyers for the men could not be reached or would not comment on the case, but their allies say the charges are bogus and may even be retribution by the government for O’Hair’s innovative attempt to expand the Air Force research program that he worked on, called the “Battlefield Airman.—

Schaller and Sumrall were partners in a Florida company called Schaller Engineering, which filed incorporation papers in January 2005 and hired the PMA Group as its lobbying firm a month later.

The PMA Group is a now-defunct lobbying firm that was raided by the FBI last fall as part of an investigation that reportedly involves questions about the company’s campaign contributions.