Jeff Neely declines to answer congressional questions about the Las Vegas conference during an April 2012 hearing.

Jeff Neely declines to answer congressional questions about the Las Vegas conference during an April 2012 hearing. J. Scott Applewhite/AP file photo

Executive at Center of GSA Conference Scandal Pleads Guilty to Making False Claims

Jeff Neely could face up to five years in prison, plus fines and restitution.

Jeff Neely, who once rode high planning lavish conferences as western regional commissioner for the General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to making false claims to federal investigators.

The announcement, from an assistant U.S. attorney based in San Francisco and the GSA Inspector General’s Office, said Neely pleaded guilty in federal court for submitting to GSA a claim to be reimbursed for lodging expenses at M Resort Spa Casino Las Vegas that he knew were not incurred for official business.

Neely was indicted in September 2014 in the aftermath of an IG’s revelations in an April 2012 report about PBS officials spending $820,000 on a four-day conference for 300 people in Las Vegas that included a mind-reader, an open-bar reception and a bicycle-building team exercise.

Neely and top GSA leaders Martha Johnson and Bob Peck were forced out, and Congress joined with the Obama administration in a crackdown on expensive federal conferences. A photo of Neely in a hot tub with a glass of wine was circulated by irate lawmakers.

On Tuesday, Neely also admitted he submitted and caused GSA to pay additional false claims during his tenure, that he improperly failed to claim annual leave on certain dates, and that these acts resulted in losses to GSA exceeding $5,000, the Justice Department said in a press release. He also agreed that these acts constituted an abuse of his position of trust with GSA, and that he obstructed justice during GSA’s investigation of his offenses by submitting a false document and falsely certifying it as true. He agreed to pay $8,000 in restitution.  

"Government officials cannot spend taxpayer dollars recklessly,” said acting GSA Inspector General Robert Erickson. “They must be held to high standards.”

Neely, 59, who’s been living in Garnderville, Nev., will be sentenced June 30 and remains free until then. The maximum sentence he faces is five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 (or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the violation) plus restitution, a special assessment of $100 and up to three years of supervised release.