WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former Secret Service agent who ran a body armor company was acquitted on Monday on charges that he tried to bribe a foreign official as part of a sting operation in which federal agents posed as arms-buying representatives of an African minister.
The acquittal is the latest blow to the Obama administration in a sprawling case aimed at rooting out purported corruption in the arms industry, a case the Justice Department unveiled in 2009 with great fanfare.
R. Patrick Caldwell served as chief executive officer of Protective Products of America Inc after working for the U.S. Secret Service for some 27 years, including being in charge of the division for the vice president's protection. The company was later sold in bankruptcy.
He and the owner of a business that sold ammunition and other law enforcement gear, John Godsey, were acquitted on Monday by a jury after a lengthy trial.
In the sting operation run by the Justice Department, 22 people were charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and conspiracy to commit money laundering for allegedly inflating prices to win contracts from a purported African defense minister.
The scheme was designed such that the minister would then allegedly take the extra money but he was an undercover U.S. agent. A few of those charged in the case pleaded guilty.
District Judge Richard Leon broke up the case into several trials because so many people were charged, the first of which ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Prosecutors have said they plan to retry those people.
In the second trial, which included Caldwell and Godsey, the judge threw out the conspiracy charge, weakening the case. Three others who were tried with them are still waiting to hear their fate from the jury.
(Reporting By Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Richard Chang)