A Celeste, Texas, man pleaded guilty today to a wire fraud scheme involving the selling of Chinese-made military helmets, body armor, and other products to the United States Department of State and other federal agencies while falsely claiming that his company manufactured the goods in Texas.
According to court documents, from approximately June 2017 through approximately December 2020, Tanner Jackson, 32, operated Top Body Armor, LLC USA, and a related entity, Bullet Proof Armor LLC, from his residence in a rural part of Texas. Jackson was the lowest bidder on contracts to supply the Department of State with helmets and body armor, including to personnel guarding the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, and to foreign law enforcement partners in Latin America. The equipment was removed from service after concerns about its quality came to light.
As part of the scheme, Jackson altered or falsified ballistics laboratory test reports that he provided to the government. On one occasion, after his products failed testing at a legitimate laboratory, Jackson created his own fake ballistics laboratory— “Texas Ballistics LLC” —and simply produced fake reports giving himself passing scores. To conceal the Chinese origin of the products and associated delays in shipping the products to the government, Jackson created and controlled numerous email accounts in the names of supposed shipping company employees. Jackson would author email exchanges between himself and the bogus employees, while copying government contracting officers, to explain away shipping delays from China with cover stories such as truck accidents and COVID outbreaks at the warehouse. Jackson also won similar contracts with the Department of the Air Force and various national guard units.
Jackson is scheduled to be sentenced on February 22, 2022. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.