A former Air Force official has been sentenced to probation and a fine for accepting illegal gratuities from a government contractor.
According to a Department of Justice press release, Dennis Toenjes, Sr., was sentenced to three years of probation and fines totaling $600 for accepting gratuities worth $9,382.01. The first six months of Toenjes’s probation will be served in home confinement.
The DOJ states that when Toenjes was employed by the Air Force, he accepted various gratuities from Stephen Sweet, the owner of an asbestos abatement company which performed work at Scott Air Force base. The gratuities included Sweet paying for Toenjes’s car repairs, as well as his home heating and cooling repairs.
Toenjes, who previously pled guilty to the charge, got off lightly compared to Sweet. The DOJ press release indicates that Sweet is currently serving an 18-month prison term for tax fraud and paying gratuities to a government official.
Under federal law, it is a crime to give, offer, or promise anything of value to any public official “for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by such public official.” It is also illegal for a public official to accept such items of value. As the case of Toenjes and Sweet demonstrates, even relatively low-dollar gratuities can be grounds for criminal prosecution. Here, paying for less than $10,000 in personal repairs landed a contractor behind bars and the government official on probation.