RI Navy subcontractor pleads guilty in bribe case

By IAN MacDOUGALL | June 17, 2011 | 6:41 PM EDT

Russell Spencer, a cooperating witness in a kickback case involving Navy contracts, enters Federal Court in Providence, R.I., Friday, June 17, 2011. Prosecutors say companies owned by Spencer were used to funnel kickbacks from a Navy contractor to a civilian Navy employee, as well as to his family members and associates. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Navy subcontractor has pleaded guilty in Rhode Island for his part in what federal prosecutors say was a kickback scheme that cost the Navy millions of dollars.

Fifty-six-year-old Russell Spencer pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to commit bribery. Prosecutors say he helped funnel money from a Navy contractor to a civilian Navy employee who prosecutors say then bumped up funding to the contractor.

Prosecutors say the scheme cost the Navy between $7 million and $20 million.

The case prompted an internal Navy investigation that resulted in military officials in Washington suspending the contracting authority of Newport's Naval Undersea Warfare Center. The Navy said a host of contracting problems at the facility enabled the scheme.