HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — Three Virginia defense contractors who supplied Fort Lee have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe a public official in a scheme that saw pay absurd markups on the federal dime in exchange for cash and home improvement supplies.

Susan May Keim, 54, was an employee of Skookum Educational Company, a defense contractor that provided logistical support to U.S. military bases, including Fort Lee, located in Prince George County.

As part of Keim’s job, she was in charge of inventorying warehouse supplies such as batteries, ceiling tiles and fire extinguishers, and maintaining a list of vendors who could keep the base stocked.

But beginning in 2013, Keim added a new vendor to Skookum’s list: C&L Supply, a contractor with no other customers that just happened to be run by Rodney Gale Wilson, 67, a longtime friend of Keim and her husband, Russel Keim, 60.

Over the next five years, Susan Keim began to prefer C&L as a vendor, purchasing over $900,000 in supplies from them. But records showed not everything was above board with C&L.

For instance, as part of her plea agreement, Keim admitted that in 2014, Skookum paid $5,256 for a shipment of batteries from C&L. Of course, the federal government reimbursed Skookum the full amount — unaware that C&L had simply purchased batteries from another supplier for $758, then sold them to Skookum for $5,256, a markup of nearly 600%.

In fact, Skookum had previously purchased the same batteries from C&L’s supplier for $758. But, according to Keim’s plea, she would alert Wilson when there was an impending order in the warehouse’s inventory system, so that he could game Skookum’s bidding system and compete with other vendors.

Of course, Keim was also receiving something in return. Prosecutors documented at least $92,000 in bribes paid by Wilson to Russell and Susan Keim, including checks paid out from a C&L account.

Wilson claimed the checks were payments to Russell Keim for work he had supposedly done for C&L, but as part of his plea, Keim admitted he had never worked for C&L.

Wilson also provided a more unusual bribe to the Keims: a $5,000 purchase at Lowe’s, paid for from a company account, and a $7,283 payment for renovations to the Keims’ home.

Keim was fired from Skookum in 2020 after they became aware of the federal investigation.

On the single count of conspiracy to bribe a federal official, which all three pleaded guilty to, they could each face a maximum of five years in prison. They are set to be sentenced next year.