Crime

2 men plead not guilty in Veterans bribe case

A 63-year-old Hanford man on Thursday pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he solicited bribes from contractors doing work at Fresno's Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Federal officials allege that on numerous occasions between 2001 and 2004, Rodolfo Mallari Pagsanjan accepted cash payments from two contractors to certify construction work at the Fresno VA, promised future work to them and allowed them to inflate the value of change orders for construction contracts.

One of the contractors accused of involvement with Pagsanjan also was in federal court Thursday. Clovis resident Masoud Mirhadi, 65, pleaded not guilty to charges that he bribed Pagsanjan.

A third man, Fresno resident Trent Miller, did not appear in court, and Beck issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

Pagsanjan is accused of five counts of seeking bribes as a public official. Miller and Mirhadi each face two counts of bribing a public official.

Each of the three face the possibility of 15 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

An eight-page indictment includes sketchy details of the alleged crimes.

The first count says that between Sept. 19, 2001, and Oct. 26, 2002, Pagsanjan, who worked for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, sought cash payments from Mirhadi in return for certifying construction work by Mirhadi at the Fresno VA, awarding future Veterans Affairs work to Mirhadi and allowing the contractor to inflate the value of change order requests.

The fifth count against Pagsanjan alleges that in March 2004 he demanded $10,000 from contractors for certifying VA construction work, future work and to inflate change orders. The men are next scheduled to appear in federal court on Nov. 26.

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