The CMMC assessment body Cask Government Services remains within the orbit of multiple criminal probes, per an analysis of court docket filings by Oxebridge for three current cases.

USA v Gutierrez

James Soriano

As reported in December 2021, Oxebridge identified Cask as “Contractor-1” in the criminal case USA v Gutierrez. In that case, the defendant Liberty Gutierrez pleaded guilty (here) to conspiracy to commit money laundering and fraud. According to the court records, Cask hired Gutierrez upon the prompting of former SPAWAR contracting officer James Soriano; in return, Soriano steered at least one government opportunity to Cask.  Gutierrez then shared a portion of her illegal salary with Soriano, who hid some of the money in a “golf bag,” according to court filings.

Later, the court record revealed, Cask hired Soriano’s wife, Weng “Rowena” Cornejo Soriano. In exchange for the hiring, Soriano helped illegally steer Dept. of Defense contracts towards Cask.

Despite the guilty plea, the Dept. of Justice had not arrested Soriano, nor any of the management of Cask. Instead, the Gutierrez case has been continually extended, as the DoJ continues to investigate. Gutierrez is awaiting sentencing, but is likely cooperating with investigators in return for a suspended sentence.

USA v Parker

Dawnell Parker

In October of 2023, the DoJ arrested another NWIC employee, Dawnell Parker, and accused her of years of bribery. In that case, Soriano is only referred to as “Co-Conspirator X,” but the allegations made track with those made in USA v Gutierrez.

Like Gutierrez, Parker pleaded guilty (here), but did so in mere weeks. In her plea, Parker admitted she worked with Soriano at the Naval Information Warfare Center, formerly SPAWAR; Soriano was her superior, and the two — according to the court filings — colluded to accept bribes from at least two defense contractors in return for steering millions of dollars of DoD contracts to the companies.

One of these companies, called “Contractor-B” in the docket, appears to be Cask, and “Co-Conspirator B” is one of the managers of Cask. In the filing, the DoJ and Parker reveal that “Contractor-B” has headquarters in San Diego CA and Stafford VA, the same locations as Cask. The docket then repeats the details made in USA v Gutierrez, claiming Cask management “gave [Soriano’s] wife a job working at Contractor-B at [Soriano’s] request.” 

The Parker case reveals additional possible crimes by Cask, however. The plea admission by Parker goes on to claim, as fact, that “Co-Conspirator B tried to hide the fact that [Soriano’s] wife was working at Contractor-B by paying her through other businesses either owned or controlled by Co-Conspirator B.” The docket claims that Co-Conspirator-B then “founded small businesses including businesses that purported be Native Hawaiian SBA(8) businesses.”

Oxebridge previously reported that Cask’s owner, Elizabeth Guezzale, also owns Pinao Consulting, which had received DoD contracts. Pinao Consulting is listed as an 8(a) Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB). According to that company’s website, it took its name from the Hawaiian word for “dragonfly.” As a result, it appears that Co-Conspirator B is Guezzale.

Pinao Consulting holds a current ISO 9001 certificate issued by Perry Johnson Registrars.

The DoJ claims that Co-Conspirator B “used these small businesses to win contracts that [Cask] was not able to win.

The docket goes on to outline various payments and gifts bestowed by Cask to Soriano and/or Parker, including a “dinner at Seasons 52 in San Diego CA” where “Co-Conspirator-B paid $524.74 for the meal.” According to Google maps, Seasons 52 is less than two miles from the Cask HQ in San Diego.

USA v Soriano

Nearly concurrent with Parker’s guilty plea — or possibly because of it — the DoJ finally arrested Soriano, under a third criminal case filed as USA v Soriano et al. That case was filed in November of 2023, and lists USA v Parker as a “related case.”

Soriano was released on a$200,000 bond, and has had his passport seized while he awaits trial. To date, Soriano has not pleaded guilty.

The third case names Soriano’s co-defendant as Philip Flores of Intellipeak, and claims Flores used his company to bribe Soriano with “expensive meals and tickets to premiere sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the World Series.” In exchange, Soriano steered government contracts to Intellipeak.

The docket then reveals that Parker, working for Soriano, illegally approved invoices for Intellipeak.

In an official memo, the DoJ alleges Soriano accepted “free dinners at San Diego restaurants including De Medici Cucina, the University Club and Bluewater Boathouse Grill and Ruth’s Chris in Virginia as well as tickets to the 2018 World Series and the 2019 Super Bowl,” in exchange for Soriano “falsifying government paperwork” to help a defense contractor win contracts. This suggests that Intellipeak is the company listed as “Contractor-A” in the USA v Parker case.

The Soriano indictment (here) goes on to list over 10 pages of bribes given to Soriano, and subsequent illegal acts performed by Soriano in exchange. Over the course of his interactions with Flores, Soriano enabled Intellipeak to win four contracts with the US Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Program Support Center worth nearly $10 million.

At one point, Soriano falsely claimed that Intellipeak — which was operated out of Flores’ house — had “facility clearances.”

No evidence or allegations are made in the USA vs Soriano case that currently appear to intersect with Cask, but given that fact, it is likely the DoJ is preparing either a second indictment against Soriano for the Cask bribery, or will add a “superseding indictment” to the current case against Soriano. Since the Cask case does not involve Flores, a superseding indictment is unlikely, however.

The arrest and prosecution of Flores represent the first arrest of a defense contractor executive in the various Soriano bribery scandals, and suggest that an arrest in the Cask case is imminent.

Cyber AB Scandal Fallout

Cask was approved as an official CMMC “C3PAO” — or conformity assessment body — for the Dept. of Defense’s CMMC cybersecurity maturity model certification program. Despite the evidence that Cask is under criminal investigation and that one of its former employees — Gutierrez — has already pleaded guilty, the Cyber AB has not withdrawn Cask’s C3PAO status.

Cask was given early approval by the Cyber AB, raising questions about cronyism and corruption in the CMMC scheme. At least one Cask senior manager, Stacy High-Brinkley, previously worked with the Cyber AB’s original Board chair, Ty Schieber, at a former company called Qinetiq.

A source reported that the Cyber AB — formerly called the CMMC AB — claimed it “vetted” Cask simply by asking if the allegations in the Gutierrez case were true. Cask reportedly denied it, and the AB did not pursue the matter. This has created a scenario where a company that has been accused of illegally steering DoD contracts to itself will soon hold a position of authority — as CMMC assessor — in a scheme that determines where other DoD contracts are steered.

the Cyber AB has consistently refused to address ethics concerns, allegations of criminality, and conflicts of interest while it boasts full support from the DoD’s office of the Chief Information Officer John Sherman. Sherman has refused to investigate the AB.


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