Health Department official admits taking bribes from vendors | USAO-SDTX

HOUSTON — The former administrative and community coordinator for the Houston Health Department (HHD) pleaded guilty to bribery, U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. of the department’s Criminal Division announced. of Justice (DOJ).

Barry Barnes, 62, accepted bribes from three companies in return for influencing the selection of each to perform services for the HHD.

“This office has been relentlessly committed to tackling public corruption at all levels. The people of the Southern District of Texas deserve an environment in which public officials are held to the highest standards,” Lowery said. “This lawsuit should send a clear message that we will find and hold accountable any public official who abuses the public trust.”

From November 2019 to March 2021, Barnes engaged in a kickback scheme with a business owner and abused his position in the HHD to facilitate the selection of the business in the process. emergency order. Barnes then submitted invoices to ensure this individual was paid for six lucrative marketing, advertising and media contracts, including three service contracts related to the global COVID-19 pandemic funded by federal COVID-19 aid. 19. In exchange, Barnes received multiple cash payments from January 2020 to February 2021.

As part of his plea deal, Barnes admitted that in December 2020 he selected another business owner to perform advertising services for the HHD. In return, Barnes received part of the funds. Barnes re-engaged in the same program in January 2021 with another company. He received a bribe for helping this business owner obtain a disbursement from the City of Houston for advertising services performed for the HHD.

Barnes pleaded guilty to bribery relating to programs receiving federal funds and faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. U.S. District Judge Sim Lake will impose the sentence on January 26, 2023.

He was allowed to remain on bail pending this hearing.

The FBI – Houston Field Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sebastian A. Edwards and Attorney General Demetrius Sumner of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section are pursuing the case.