Former Top Federal Exec Charged with Fraudulent Travel Claims

A former high-ranking federal executive who organized a notoriously lavish western conference in 2010 was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in San Francisco today on charges of submitting fraudulent business-travel claims.

Jeffrey Neely, 59, of Gardnerville, Nev., was formerly buildings service commissioner and acting regional administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration’s Pacific Rim Region.

The GSA manages buildings and services for federal agencies. Its Pacific Rim division, also known as Region 9, is based in San Francisco and includes California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Pacific territories.

In October 2010, Neely organized an $823,000, four-day conference at the M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas for 300 employees of Region 9 and three other GSA regions in the western half of the United States.

The conference’s costs included commemorative coins, a $30,000 talent-show awards dinner, $44 breakfasts, semi-private parties, spacious suites for some officials, souvenir yearbooks for participants and $130,000 for eight pre-conference trips, including six to the M Resort, taken by GSA officials to plan the event.

An April 2012 report by GSA’s inspector general said the spending was “excessive and wasteful” and in some instances in violation of the agency’s own rules. It said Neely had instructed planners to make the event “‘over the top,’ bigger and better than previous conferences.”

The scandal led to a congressional hearing and the resignation of the GSA’s national administrator, Martha Johnson, and firing of two top deputies. Neely was put on administrative leave after the report was issued on April 2, 2012, and resigned the following month.

Neely was charged with three counts of making fraudulent claims for travel reimbursement and two counts of submitting false documents in connection with claims.

He is due to make an initial appearance on the charges before U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Laporte in San Francisco on Oct. 20.

Each count carries a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if Neely is convicted.

The allegedly fraudulent claims were for a night at the M Resort on March 11, 2010, at the time of one of the purported planning trips; for lodging in Cambria in San Luis Obispo County on June 25, 2010; and for roundtrip airfare between Guam and Saipan in February 2012.

The alleged false statements were given in documents Neely submitted to justify a business trip to Long Beach on June 25, 2010, and an extension of his stay in Las Vegas at the time of the conference in October 2010.

The indictment alleges Neely knew the claims and statements were “false, fictitious and fraudulent.”

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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