Reports: Prosecutions going up for war zone crime

October 30, 2011

The Associated Press (AP) on October 30, 2011 released the following:

“By PAULINE JELINEK
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Marine in Iraq sent home $43,000 in stolen cash by hiding it in a footlocker among American flags. A soldier shipped thousands more concealed in a toy stuffed animal, and an embassy employee tricked the State Department into wiring $240,000 into his foreign bank account.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, the number of people indicted and convicted by the U.S. for bribery, theft and other reconstruction-related crimes in both countries is rapidly rising, according to two government reports released Sunday.

“This is a boom industry for us,” Stuart Bowen, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, or SIGIR, said in an interview.

“Investigators and auditors had a productive quarter,” said a report on the theft of Afghanistan aid by Steven Trent, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR. The report covered August through October.

In the last 13 months U.S. investigators in Iraq secured the indictments of 22 people for alleged aid-related offenses, bringing to 69 the total since the SIGIR office was created in 2004. Convictions stand at 57. Several hundred more suspects are under scrutiny in 102 open investigations and those numbers are expected to climb.

The rise in caseloads derives partly from spinoff investigations, where suspects facing prosecution lead investigators to other suspects, said Jon Novak, SIGIR’s assistant inspector general for investigations.

“More and more people are ratting out their associates,” he said, turning in conspirators who helped launder money after it was stolen, others who were aware of it and others implicated in the crimes.

As investigators gain experience, they’re received better information from a growing network of sources in Iraq, said Dan Willkens, Novak’s deputy. Development of an automated data-mining system for investigations has helped, he said, as did a decision two years ago to speed prosecutions by hiring three former assistant U.S. attorneys and detailing them to the Department of Justice.

At the inspector general’s office for Afghan reconstruction, created in 2008, officials report only nine indictments and seven convictions so far. They say they’re trying to ramp up after years of upheaval and charges the office was mismanaged. Trent was named acting inspector general after his predecessor left in August and is the third person to hold the job.

Still, Trent reported that during the last quarter a SIGAR-initiated investigation netted the largest bribery case in Afghanistan’s 10-year war. Former army reserve captain Sidharth “Tony” Handa of Charlotte, N.C., was convicted, sentenced to prison and fined for soliciting $1.3 million in bribes from contractors working on reconstruction projects.

Most crimes uncovered by U.S. investigators in the two war zones include bribery, kickbacks and theft, inspired in part by the deep and pervasive cultures of corruption indigenous to the countries themselves.

Among some of the cases listed in the reports were those of:

Gunnery Sgt. Eric Hamilton, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in what prosecutors say was a scheme to help Iraqi contractors steal 70 generators that were meant to supply electricity for fellow Marines. He sent some of their payments home in a footlocker and had other money wired, the report said.

Several U.S. government employees, who received kickbacks for steering contracts to local conspirators and providing inside information to people competing for contracts. A former army sergeant, who was not identified, is charged with pocketing more than $12,000 in cash that a contractor never picked up after the money was allegedly stolen by another army sergeant and mailed to California inside a stuffed animal.

Jordanian national and U.S. embassy employee Osama Esam Saleem Ayesh, who was convicted in April for stealing nearly $240,000 intended to cover shipping and customs charges the State Department incurs when it moves household goods of its employees. The money wound up in Ayesh’s bank in Jordan.

Money stolen from reconstruction projects also has been shipped off of U.S. battlefields tucked into letters home and stuffed in a military vest. Tens of thousands of dollars were once sewn into a Santa Claus suit.

Prosecutors have retrieved some of the money. More than $83 million will be returned to the U.S. from Iraq cases completed in the budget year that ended Sept. 30, bringing the total recovered over the last seven years to nearly $155 million, Bowen’s office said.

As well as stolen cash, the total includes court-ordered restitution, fines and proceeds from the sale of merchandise seized from those convicted, including Rolex watches, luxury cars, plasma TVs and houses.

SIGAR prosecutions recovered $51 million over the past year, Trent’s report said.

But the amount recovered is believed to be a tiny fraction of what’s been stolen in the two war zones, a figure that will probably never be known for certain. Far more money is believed to have been lost through waste and abuse that resulted from poor management and the often-questioned U.S. strategy of trying to rebuild nations that are still at war.

The U.S. has committed $62 billion to rebuilding Iraq and $72 billion for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

The independent Commission on Wartime Contracting estimated in August that at least $31 billion has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, adding that the total could be as high as $60 billion. It studied not just reconstruction spending, but $206 billion for the logistical support of coalition forces and the performance of security functions.

The commission found that from 10 to 20 percent of the $206 billion in spending was wasted, while fraud accounted for the loss of another 5 to 9 percent.

Bowen called the cost of fraud “egregious.”

“This is open crime occurring in a war zone,” he said. “And the purpose of a lot of these expenditures is to win hearts and minds. Obviously we lose hearts and minds” when local populations see foreigners steal money meant to help rebuild their country.

SIGIR and SIGAR are only two of the U.S. government offices looking into fraud, waste and abuse. Others include State Department inspectors and Army criminal investigators.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Former Army Contracting Officials and Defense Contractor Indicted for Alleged Bribery and Theft of Government Funds

September 23, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on September 22, 2011 released the following:

“WASHINGTON— A former member of the U.S. Army employed by a private security firm was arrested at Miami International Airport today on charges of bribery, fraud and theft of government funds, in connection with the award of a contract to provide services to a U.S. government provincial reconstruction team in Farah, Afghanistan.

The arrest and charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Steven J Trent, Acting Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR); Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Zott of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Central Field Office; and Brigadier General Colleen McGuire, Provost Marshal General of the Army and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.

Raul Borcuta was arrested in Miami today when he tried to enter the United States from Europe. Upon Borcuta’s arrest, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois unsealed a nine-count indictment charging Borcuta and his co-conspirators, Zachery Taylor and Jared Close, with mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, bribery, and theft of government funds.

According to the indictment, Borcuta, 32, defrauded the U.S. government in connection with a contract to provide two up-armored sport utility vehicles to be used by an official in the government of Farah Province, Afghanistan, who had received death threats from insurgent groups. The indictment alleges that Borcuta bribed U.S. Army contracting officials Taylor, 40, and Close, 40, with $10,000 each to award him the contract and to make full payment to Borcuta before the vehicles were delivered. Taylor and Close, formerly U.S. Army staff sergeants assigned to the provincial reconstruction team in Farah, allegedly authorized a payment of approximately $200,000 in U.S. government funds to Borcuta. According to the indictment, Borcuta received the payment and never delivered the vehicles required by the contract.

The defendants face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each mail fraud count, 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, 30 years in prison for each conspiracy count, 15 years in prison for each bribery count and 10 years in prison for each theft of government funds count.

An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This case was investigated by SIGAR, DCIS, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois provided assistance in this investigation.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Department of Defense (DoD) Employee Desi Deandre Wade Charged in a Federal Criminal Complaint For Allegedly Taking a $95,000 Bribe

August 25, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on August 25, 2011 released the following:

“Department of Defense Employee Arrested for Taking $95,000 Bribe in Atlanta Relating to Military Contract in Afghanistan

ATLANTA— DESI DEANDRE WADE, 39, of Climax, Georgia, was arrested yesterday by FBI agents and has now been charged in a criminal complaint with bribery. WADE is expected to make an appearance before a United States Magistrate Judge 3:00 p.m. today.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “This Department of Defense employee is charged with selling his position of public trust for cash. While he was supposed to be working to support our troops, he was lining his pockets. The FBI and our partner defense agencies are to be commended for rooting out and stopping this corruption.”

Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, said, “When the integrity of the contracting process is compromised, the taxpayers bear the brunt of this monetarily and the mission overseas can be adversely impacted to say the least. The FBI aggressively seeks out those individuals who attempt to personally profit from the contracting and funding process of these many and varied critical government missions overseas.”

Special Agent in Charge John F. Khin, Southeast Field Office, Defense Criminal Investigative Service said, “DCIS continues to place the highest priority on ferreting out public corruption involving Department of Defense contracting in Southwest Asia military operations. These joint investigations with our partner agencies, spanning across the globe, have been highly effective in bringing wrongdoers to justice, and deterring others who would consider betraying the public trust.”

Steven Trent, Acting Deputy Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said, “SIGAR agents are proud to have participated in this investigation, which underscores the cooperation among U.S. law enforcement agencies operating in a conflict zone.”

According to United States Attorney Yates and the criminal complaint just filed in this case: WADE is currently a U.S. Department of Defense employee assigned to Kabul, Afghanistan as the chief of Fire and Emergency Services. On July 16, 2011, Defense Criminal Investigative Services (DCIS) and FBI in Kabul, Afghanistan, received information that WADE was utilizing his position as a contracting official to improperly direct Department of Defense (“DoD”) contracts to certain bidders in return for personal gain. Specifically, WADE influenced an Afghan-based contractor to make bribe payments to him in return for guarantees of continued work by way of future contracts in Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan, WADE allegedly solicited and received a $4,000 bribe in exchange for the awarding of a repair/maintenance contract modification submitted by the Afghan-based contractor.

WADE then allegedly proposed steering a subsequent, much larger contract to the company in exchange for a certain percentage of the value of the contract. The bribe, as calculated by WADE, would amount to over $100,000. WADE promised to obtain the quotes from other bidders and provide them to the company to insure that the company would be the low bidder and ultimately get the contract.

Several weeks later, WADE traveled to Atlanta to attend the August 22-26 Fire Rescue International Conference. While in Atlanta, WADE allegedly reiterated that he wanted $110,000 for the awarding of the new contract to the company. WADE confirmed that he would disclose the competing companies’ bids.

On August 24, 2011, at approximately 5:45 p.m., WADE accepted $95,000 in cash in exchange for his promise to direct the contract to the company. WADE counted the bundles of money before he put them in his backpack. WADE was subsequently arrested by federal agents and his backpack was found to contain $95,000 in cash.

This case is part of an ongoing effort by the FBI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), as well as the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit to investigate and bring forward for prosecution those individuals engaging in the very costly endeavor of corruption and fraud involving U.S. government funds intended for critical military and other efforts around the world.

This case is being investigated by special agents of the FBI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), with support from the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit.

Assistant United States Attorney Robert McBurney is prosecuting the case.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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