A prominent Colorado-based organization known as A-Just-Cause – is on a grand mission: to free six men they say are victims of wrongful convictions by the U.S. Government. Each defendant, self-employed as (IT) Information Technology experts, are serving lengthy sentences in a federal prison for theft crimes. Their supporters say no crimes were committed.
Appellate lawyer Gwendolyn Solomon and Just-Cause members vehemently said that the men (five black and one white) have been victimized by a vicious, biased criminal justice system, riddled with vast corruption when it comes to dealing with minorities.
“This is a case involving six innocent men. No crime ever happened and the case belongs in a civil court,” says Sam Thurman, a Just-Cause member.
“Even the FBI first concluded in a letter sent to a complainant that the situation was a civil matter and that no crime had been committed,” said Olivia Hodges, another Just-Cause member.
The six men were executives of IRP Solutions, a Colorado Springs-based software company founded by Gary L. Walker, one of the convicted defendants. IRP specialized in creating unique software systems designed to help law enforcement manage their caseloads and to keep track of sensitive intelligence.
Convicted in the controversial multi-million dollar federal theft case are (Gary L. Walker; no relation to the author of this story; Demetrius K. Harper, David A. Zirpolo, Clinton A. Stewart, Kendrick Barnes and David A. Banks.)
After firing court-appointed attorneys for trying to plea-bargain the case for prison time, the executives represented themselves at trial in September 2011. So how does a civil case turn into a major criminal action?
In 2007, the grand jury refused to indict the men on partial allegations that IRP was not a legitimate company, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch reworded the complaint and took it to a second grand jury that indicted the men on a 25 count indictment in 2009.
The FBI accused the men, hailed as the IRP-6, of defrauding 42 staffing firms out of $5.1 million dollars – money designated to pay labor costs incurred by IRP while temporary employees and consultants developed the law enforcement software called “Case Investigation Life Cycle” (CILC), a program, according to IRP and Just-Cause, that Department of Homeland Security(DHS) and New York Police Department(NYPD) including Philadephia Police Department had expressed interest in purchasing.
IRP stands for Investigative Resource Planning. All six men attended Colorado Springs Fellowship Church. Feds searched the church’s bank records in 2007 without a subpoena, hoping to find traces of the alleged pilfered funds. But not one questionable penny was deposited there. Pastor Rose Banks filed a pending federal lawsuit against the Feds for prying into the church’s bank records.
What triggered the FBI investigation were numerous complaints from staffing agencies who contracted with IRP to make the CILC program. Staff managers alleged IRP failed to repay agencies the labor costs for leased employees, and that IRP executives falsely claimed to have had valid contracts with law enforcement agencies to develop the CILC.
IRP software was in heavy demand after the 911 terrorist attacks upon American soil.
Government officials decried the fact that the horrendous 911 attack most likely occurred in part due to the inability of government agencies to share information.
IRP founder Gary Walker, an established software creator, brainstormed with his executive team to develop a product much needed by law enforcement.
“Although we had no contract, Walker explains, we began working on the program with the hope of closing a deal after meeting with (Department of Homeland Security).”
“And they asked for modifications to the software which created more work.”
To deal with the workload, IRP began using staffing agencies to front the extra labor costs incurred by IRP while competing in a “rat race” with Lockheed Martin, IBM, Boeing and Northgrop Grumman.
Overall IRP were obligated to reimburse the staff companies.
“We pulled right to the edge of closing business but only to have law enforcement agencies leave us hanging,” Walker said during interview. Walker said they had a $375,000.00 sale to Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
“Then, they said they were not sure about their budget. We also had a $12 million dollar pilot plan from Department of Homeland Security that did not materialize, including an assurance from a New York Police Department consultant that we would gain business with them, that never happened.”
“And later in 2009, we were working on a contract with Philadephia Police Department but the Feds undermined us by talking with these agencies that they were investigating our company,” Walker lamented. “We simply were left hanging and forced to to deal with the debt from the staffing agencies.”
“Staffing agencies who chose to take on business with IRP risked the posssibilty of accumalating bad debt that is written off every year,” according to Kellie Baucom, a contract recruiter in Colorado had said in a letter sent to the courts on behalf of the men. Unfortunately for the IRP-6, the judge refused to allow Baucom to testify and provide expert opinion and experience in dealing with providing employees to work temporary jobs in the IT field.
As proof the defendants tried to repay labor costs, Demetrius Harper sent an email to ETI professionals saying, “As I told you before, ETI professionals will get every penny($200,000,00), at such time as our cash flow resumes.”
The case is currently being appealed based on Fifth Amendment Prohibition of Compulsory Testimony, Sixth Amendment Right to Present a Defense, and Speedy Trial Act Violation. How could such a bad turn of events happen in the life of six highly intelligent, ex-military men who attended the same church for 20 years, with various academic degrees, that have never been convicted of a crime?
Growing Support For IRP-6
Growing support to free the men has swelled to national levels.
This summer, Jabar International will release a documentary film about the convicted IRP-6 executives titled: “‘What Color Is the American Dream?’ The IRP-6 Story: An American Dream Turned Nightmare.”
The almighty Feds insisted the men were thieves. The FBI and numerous staffing agencies said the IRP company never developed the CILC software but that IRP only operated as a front, falsely claiming they already had contracts to create the software for law enforcement.
Staffing agency managers said the executives seduced them into believing they actually had contracts which impressed the managers to pay labor costs to help IRP make the program.
IRP made the program.
Gary Walker, IRP founder, now serving prison time with the other five defendants in Florence Colorado where some of America’s most dangerous criminals, terrorists, and killers reside, disputed allegations made by staffing agencies and the Feds
“The Feds are wrong about about the case. IRP emails clearly substantiate the fact that we never mentioned anything about an advance contract.”
In a prison email sent to this journalist, Walker explains the amount of money spent on labor costs.
“In the government’s opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch said, no one got wealthy from the alleged conspiracy. In fact, all money went to IT contractors who worked on the software projects.”
Walker admits that IRP executives who are IT professionals did perform work on projects and were appropriately compensated as contract employees of a staffing company.
“And hours were billed in the same fashion as the other 35-plus contract employees.”
Walker broke down the amount and disbursement of monies paid
“Over a two-year period, approximately $700,000,00 was split between six IRP executives who were (billable consultants) on the projects. This averaged out to $55000,00 per year for the executives.”
“This amount ($55k) is much less than we made working other consulting jobs prior to operating the business.”
“The other $4.3 million went directly into the pockets of other IT contract employees, some who were retired law enforcement professionals. It is inconceivable that if we were involved in a scheme, we would not try to enrich ourselves with all the money,” Walker concludes.
Six Men Convicted In Federal Court
Convicted on October 20th 2011 on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, asset forfeiture including mail and wire fraud, the IRP executives received the following prison sentences:
(1) Gary L. Walker: 135 months
(2) David L. Banks: 135 months
(3) Demetrius K. Harper: 121 months
(4) Clinton A. Stewart: 121 months
(5) David A. Zirpolo: 121 months
(6) Kendrick Barnes: 87 months
Prosecutorial tunnel vision created a tragic communication failure
U.S. District Court Judge Christine M. Arguello ordered the men to pay $5,000,000 dollars jointly, in restitution to the 42 staffing companies allegedly bilked by the scheme.
Defense attorney Steven Leckar said the men could have been sued in civil court for the money owed to the staffing agencies, “but most times if the FBI receive a complaint, they usually try to find something indictable.”
Just-Cause member Olivia Hodges says anyone familiar with how staffing agencies work knows that, “they operate at risk of losing money.” Bad debt is a typical practice with staffing companies, sources point out. Credible sources involved with the staffing industry confirm Hodges assertion.
Andrew Albarelle, the executive officer at Remy Corporation (www.remycorp.com) explains “it is up to the staffing firm to determine whether or not a company is financially stable to work with, and sometimes staffing firms simply assume the risks.”
“This is a story about how prosecutorial tunnel vision created a tragic communication failure,” says Alan Bean, Executive Director of Friends of Justice.
Sam Thurman said the FBI, after initial investigation, explained to a staffing manager that the case was civil. “Court documents showed an FBI letter dated August 28th 2005 – from Denver-based Supervisory Special Agent Jean Andersen, replying to an alleged victim that it was a civil matter with no basis for criminal action,” Thurman adds.
Despite the FBI’s Andersen declaring no crime was committed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch dogmatically pursued the IRP-6 for prosecution.
How IRP Solutions Began
Gary Walker, an African American, started IRP Solutions Corporation in February 2003, two years after the 911 terrorist attack upon New York World Trade Center. IRP stands for “Investigative Resource Planning.” Capitilizing on the 911 disaster which exposed a major communication gap between law enforcement agencies, and the way investigative intelligence was processed, Walker and his elite IT professional team embarked on a mission to provide a solution. The IRP professionals developed software as mentioned earlier, called “Case Investigative Life Cycle” (CILC).
In a Police Technology Magazine, the article explained the valuable effectiveness of the software: “Nowadays, technology seems to be providing ways to solve everything in our complicated professional lives. So why not find a technical solution that eliminates slipshod case management and poorly executed investigative processes? That’s the idea behind IRP Solutions’ new (CILC) software.” The value of having this tool in the field, the article further said, “becomes evident at a crime scene, as it reminds you about the little details, things like getting the paramedic’s name and work schedule and other little stuff that tends to be forgotten, that later becomes a big headache.”
Confident that CILC software was a surefire sell, the IRP executives mounted an aggressive marketing campaign combined with sending announcement letters to federal law enforcement agencies. A manager at Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contacted IRP, asking the group to conduct a demo at a meeting to be attended by various federal agencies in Washington D.C.
In November 2003, IRP executives traveled to D.C. to showcase the software. New York Police Department, DHS, FBI, Secret Service, Federal Air Marshals, ICE, TSA and U.S. Coast Guard attended the conference.
According to Gary Walker, “DHS provided the company with highly sensitive documentation and DHS asked IRP as part of a ‘Request For Information’ to begin working on developing federal law enforcement-type investigation situations.”
“It was necessary to make extensive modifications to meet the needs of state and federal law enforcement agencies,” Walker explained. Steven Wayne Cooper, a program manager for Consolidated Enforcement Environment which is part of Department of Homeland Security, confirmed Walker’s statement.
Cooper testified under oath during the trial, that DHS representatives conversed with Walker in Washington about the “Case Investigative Life Cycle.” And that a request was made to IRP and other competing contractors to modify the software suitable for state and federal law enforcement.
“We were doing market research for information on possible solutions to address the administrative, investigative and litigation case management needs,” Cooper testified under separate questioning by defendant Walker (representing himself) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch.
But Cooper explained that DHS never contracted IRP to fully develop the software but IRP were expected to submit contract bids like other companies.
Under questioning by defendant Kevin Banks, DHS’ Cooper reiterated that the IRP product lacked capabilities the DHS were looking for in a federal enterprise solution. At this juncture, the exchanges between Banks and Cooper became testy as Cooper waivered on the question about whether or not DHS specifically asked IRP to modify the CILC software – or if DHS had issued IRP a confidential informant document that allowed IRP to view the DHS information system.
Cooper appeared agitated as Banks questioned him about DHS sending IRP a cost estimate for the software. “I don’t recollect this,” Cooper replied.
DHS’ William “Bill” Witherspoon undercut Cooper’s testimony, after emails were introduced, by testifying that his office, in fact, sent IRP a cost estimate for the CILC software.
During closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sunetta Hazra and Matthew Kirsch assured the jury the government had proved the six defendants guilty of defrauding 42 companies out of $5.1 million dollars. Hazra said the defendants used deceptive techniques, “to steal from staffing companies that were expecting to be paid.”
“You heard the owners of staffing agencies testify they were told by the defendants that they had government contracts and that the companies would be paid, but the delay for payments was because government was running on a slow pay cycle,” Hazra told the jury.”
During closing arguments, defendant Gary Walker argued there was no intent to defraud and that the evidence proved that IRP only had an agreement with law enforcement to negotiate a contract to finish building the CILC software. And during this period, the defendant conceded, IRP had growing debts, and the debt could have been paid off with one sale of the product, if the Feds had not falsely accused IRP of being an illegitmate comany.
“When staffing agencies were contacted and informed of what we were doing, they liked it,” Walker said. “Staffing agencies were never told that IRP had a contract, and if there is no intent to defraud, there is no evidence to convict,” Walker told the jury.
“In many cases the staffing agencies said in their emails that they assumed IRP had contracts, and in our emails to staffing agencies we would say that we were working to close a business deal with these agencies.”
“But it wasn’t until the Feds talked with the staff agencies that they began saying, we told them we had a contract already,” Walker concluded.
Government prosecutors implored the jurors to do no less than what justice required: find the defendants guilty!
Jurors deliberated for two-and-a-half days and found the IRP executives guilty.
IRP-6 Appeals Based On Defense Witnesses Barred From Testifying
Defendants in the case said the most important witnesses for their defense were sabotaged by Judge Christine Arguello when she ruled that Remy recruiter Andrew Albarelle and Kelli Baucom, also an employee recruiter, could not testify to explain to the jury how staffing agencies often incurred bad debts in dealing with companies, particularly while doing business with IRP Solutions.
Appellate lawyers for the men questioned the judge’s ruling prohibiting defense expert testimony, and asked if the men had testified, would it have influenced the outcome of the trial in favor of the defendants.
After heated exchanges between prosecutors and the defendants representing themselves, Judge Arguello sternly ruled the prosecution was not notified in a timely manner about Albarelle and Baucom’s qualifications including what they intended to testify about.
Court records show that letters from Albarelle and Baucom were sent to U.S. Attorney John Walsh four months prior to trial. “The judge stated that the letters should have been sent directly to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch,” says convicted defendant David Banks, co-founder of IRP Corporation.
“This demonstrates some of the challenges we had to try to overcome throughout the trial. We feel that we met the requirements by sending the list of expert witnesses to the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Banks further said.
Another violation occurred, according to attorneys appealing the case, when the judge forced the defendants to testify against themselves in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
“We were forced to either testify or kiss our defense goodbye,” defendant Kevin Banks said.
Attorney Gwendolyn Solomon represents five of the six defendants on appeal. The office of U.S. Attorney John Walsh in Denver Colorado declined comment for this story