2021 | Courts

Orthopedic company owner pleads guilty to bribing former Walter Reed official

Former government official who accepted bribes pleaded guilty in October

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A Germantown orthopedic company owner pleaded guilty on Friday to bribing a former official at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday.

Bruce Thomas, 53, gave cash, airplane tickets and other gifts to David Laufer, a former Bethesda resident and the former chief of the Prosthetics and Orthotics Department at Walter Reed, according to a press release.

Thomas, who owns Pinnacle Orthopedic Services in Germantown, gave prosthetics and orthotics materials to Walter Reed from 2012 to 2019, according to the plea agreement. From 2011 to 2017, Thomas and his company received more than $20 million from Walter Reed as payments for those materials.

Laufer was in charge of ordering and purchasing materials for his department, including those from Thomas and his company, the press release stated.

Thomas said in his plea agreement that he gave Laufer at least $20,000 in cash, airplane tickets, meals, entertainment tickets, lodging and other benefits from 2012 to 2016 in exchange for Laufer buying his company’s materials in his capacity at Walter Reed.

Walter Reed used blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) to order materials during the period Laufer and Thomas had a business relationship, according to the plea agreement. The BPAs allowed the prosthetics department to set aside money for purchasing materials, but employees didn’t need to use a credit card or enter a contract.

Walter Reed awarded “multiple” BPAs to Pinnacle, according to the press release. Additionally, Laufer prevented other manufacturers and distributors from doing business directly with the hospital.

“Laufer knew that having the other companies sell to Walter Reed through Pinnacle would result in a higher price to the government,” according to the plea agreement.

Thomas faces up to two years in prison for paying a gratuity to a public official in exchange for an official act, the press release states. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 9.

Laufer pleaded guilty to accepting the bribe in October and awaits sentencing. He faces a maximum of two years in prison, according to the press release.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com