Ex-Laurel emergency director rigged bid for girlfriend, document says

A former emergency director in Laurel County rigged a bid so his girlfriend, whom he later married, would get a $530,000 contract to supply equipment that several counties needed to be prepared for possible chemical-weapons leaks, according to a federal court document.

The director also helped the woman supply inferior equipment to fill the contract, the court document said.

Court documents do not identify the official. However, Brian Reams' estranged wife, Melody Vess Reams, pleaded guilty in the fraud this week and said in a court document that a person identified as "B.R." conspired with her.

The court documents identify B.R. as director of emergency management in Laurel County at the time of the fraud.

Brian Reams held that position when a March 2009 state audit initially questioned the handling of the grant money, which led to the federal investigation.

The Laurel County judge-executive fired Reams after that audit.

The federal criminal case relates to a $1.8 million federal grant that Kentucky got in 2006 under a program designed to help counties prepare for a potential leak from the aging chemical weapons at the Bluegrass Army Depot in Madison County.

The grant was to buy equipment such as decontamination tents, portable generators and emergency-response trailers for 10 counties, including Madison and Laurel.

Officials in those counties gave Reams authority to draw up specifications for the equipment and to administer the grant.

Melody Vess, who was romantically involved with B.R in late 2006, owned a company called Providing Response and Emergency Preparedness, or PREP.

The two, who later married, took steps to have her bid on providing trailers and generators to the counties, she said in her plea agreement.

The person identified as B.R. rigged the process so her company would win the contract for $530,446.35, Melody Vess Reams said in her plea agreement.

The only legitimate bidder for the deal had put in a price of $378,260, the document said.

After she got the contract, B.R. helped her find sub-standard equipment to fill the order, the document said.

For example, the trailers she supplied were not as sturdy as the contract required, and she delivered 3,000-kilowatt generators instead of the 8,000-kilowatt units specified in the deal.

That increased her company's profit.

In 2008, Reams agreed with B.R. to fraudulently bill the 10-county consortium nearly $20,000 for two pieces of electronic equipment "that were never intended to be delivered," the plea document says.

Reams pleaded guilty under an information, meaning she worked out a deal with prosecutors before being indicted.

Melody and Brian Reams are separated, said her attorney, David Hoskins of Corbin.

Melody Reams faces up to five years in prison when she is sentenced in June.

Brian Reams declined comment.