Convicted procurement executive dies in prison

Francis D. Jones Jr., a former procurement executive at the General Services Administration and the Defense Department who was convicted of extortion, accepting bribes and fraud in 2003, died of a heart attack last week while serving his prison sentence of eight years. He was 55.

Jones, whose story was featured in the July 1, 2006 issue of Government Executive, maintained his innocence, despite evidence that he had accepted more than $1 million in gifts, including trips to Las Vegas and Rolex watches during his time at GSA and Defense.

In the late 1990s, Jones served as deputy director of GSA's Federal Acquisition Services for Technology program and was a member of the Senior Executive Service. In 1998, he moved to the Defense Department to serve as special assistant in the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

In an April 2006 interview, Jones blamed his conviction on racism. "It's not like GSA or DoD had a lot of blacks in procurement situations," he said. "So once that happens, you're going to always be investigated for something." Defense investigators who worked on his case said race had nothing to do with it.

Prosecutors called the investigation the biggest procurement scandal since the famous Ill Wind convictions in the 1980s.

Aside from his involvement in procurement fraud, Jones was generally described as a smart, upbeat person. He grew up in subsidized housing in Northeast Washington and worked his way up the Washington career ladder by taking classes at a community college and joining GSA at the GS-7 level in 1989.

Robert L. Neal Jr., who directed the Pentagon's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization while Jones worked there, also was convicted of bribery and fraud and continues to serve his sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md. Neal, 54, is scheduled to be released May 6, 2011.

Jones' lawyer, David Barger, had argued for a lesser sentence for Jones during the 2003 sentencing because Jones had already suffered a heart attack in his 40s.

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