A Texas man pled guilty Nov. 16 to a wire fraud scheme for selling and attempting to sell substandard Chinese-made military helmets, body armor and other gear to the State Department and other federal entities, including the Air Force.
Tanner Jackson, 32, of Celeste Texas, faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, although according to the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum potential penalties.
The value of the contracts Jackson bid on and won was not available.
According to court documents, from approximately June 2017 through December 2020, Jackson owned and operated Top Body Armor, L.L.C. USA, and a related entity, Bullet Proof Armor L.L.C., from his home in rural Texas.
During this period, Jackson frequently bid on contracts to supply the State Department with helmets and body armor, even after his equipment failed testing at legitimate laboratories. In order to bypass inspection failures, Jackson created his own fake ballistics laboratory, Texas Ballistics L.L.C., faking reports that gave his gear passing scores.
According to court documents, on one occasion the gear he sent was used by personnel guarding the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, until concerns over the quality of the gear were brought to light by embassy employees.
Other contracts that Jackson bid on include the supply of helmets and body armor to foreign law enforcement in South America, U.S. Air Force service members and various National Guard units. It is unclear if he won those bids.
Court documents also reveal that Jackson created and used numerous email accounts impersonating real and fake individuals in the defense and shipping industries to coverup the Chinese origin of his products. He even used the personal information of his mother and close friends in his scheme, according to court documents.
Jackson then forged bogus email exchanges between himself and these “employees,” copying government contracting officers in order to convince them the shipping delays were related to truck accidents and COVID and as a result of the products coming in from abroad.
Involved with the investigation of this case is the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the Department of State’s Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell L. Carlberg is prosecuting the case.
A federal district court judge is scheduled to hand out Jackson’s sentence Feb. 22, 2022.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master's candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting.