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Fla. man gets 5 years for $30M NASA contract fraud

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A Florida man was sentenced to five years in prison Friday for his role in a $30 million fraud and bribery scheme that duped NASA into awarding contracts that should have gone to minority-owned businesses.

Michael Dunkel, 60, of Merritt Island, Fla., falsely claimed he was an employee of an Arlington, Va.-based company that received preferences on security-related contracts through a federal set-aside program.

In reality, Dunkel paid a kickback to the Arlington company so it would pass the work on to him.

As it turned out, the company that Dunkel used as a front wasn't eligible for contract preferences, either. That company used a woman of Portuguese descent as a figurehead CEO to claim status as a disadvantaged small business.

Dunkel is the eighth person convicted in the scheme.

The five-year term imposed at Friday's sentencing hearing was slightly less than the seven years sought by prosecutors, who said that Dunkel, a commercial pilot, profited personally from the scheme by $2.4 million.

The money helped fund a lifestyle that included two private airplanes, a $350,000 race car and nearly a dozen other luxury vehicles and motorcycles, prosecutors said.

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