Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An army of many

So far, only the Wall Street Journal has reported this story (and it now seems to be behind their pay wall):
Third Officer to Plead Guilty In Troop-Supply Plot
The article reports that a 'boatload of people' were involved:
"We're talking about a boatload of people actively engaged in a conspiracy," said a U.S. official familiar with the case. This official believes there may be as many as 30 U.S. Army officers involved and "70 or more of their relatives and associates engaged as facilitators."
US officers identified in the article are:
  • Maj. James Momon Jr. - pleading guilty
  • Maj. John Lee Cockerham Jr. - pleading guilty
  • Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph - pleading guilty
  • Maj. Gloria Davis - committed suicide
There is no mention in the article of who their superior officers were, but we do know that Lt. Col. Selph reported directly to Gen. Petraeus.

Massive corruption by 'as many as 30' Army officers just isn't very interesting to consumers of the US press, one must think.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, this was the first story to report on Momon, and a more detailed story is coming:

San Antonio Express-News


Kickbacks key in Army scam
Documents show how Fort Sam major, other soldiers bilked millions.


by Guillermo Contreras
STAFF
07/11/2008
FRIDAY
A Section
01A



As the fighting dragged on in neighboring Iraq, a handful of U.S. soldiers met in secret in 2005 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, and made a pact to continue stealing from the billions of dollars that were pouring in for the war.

Investigators already had caught on to others who had been pillaging the pallets of $100 bills from the coffers of the beleaguered Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, so it seemed best to adopt a new ploy.

The soldiers began to steer U.S. military contracts for goods and services to companies willing to pay kickbacks, court records show.

Companies that didn't agree to pay bribes were dropped or had their contracts yanked, and the work was given to those on board, according to court and military documents obtained during an investigation by the San Antonio Express-News.

The soldiers included Fort Sam Houston-based Army Maj. John L. Cockerham and fellow Maj. James Momon Jr. of Virginia, whose tours overlapped at the contracting office at Camp Arifjan - the vital supply link for troops in Iraq.

The two, along with others whose names haven't been made public or who haven't been charged, diverted contracts for bottled water, fencing and wastewater removal to companies closely aligned with one another to gain at least $15 million in kickbacks.

The graft was masked by conditions ripe for rip-offs. Corruption was a normal way of doing business for some contractors in Kuwait, particularly those that set up shop in name only, according to documents and interviews with sources in Kuwait.

At Camp Arifjan, oversight was lax or nonexistent. Military officials had little contract experience or ethics training, and commanders wanted supplies fast to the boots on the ground.

The soldiers discussed among themselves how to hide illegal contracting decisions from auditors and law enforcement, records show. After Cockerham's tour was over in December 2005, he continued to rake in bribes by handing the reins to Momon, who had arrived three months earlier.

Details of the scheme still are unfolding.

"This investigation encompasses dozens of individuals and companies suspected of giving and receiving bribes, rigging bids and laundering the proceeds of their illegal activity," Justice Department prosecutor Mark Pletcher told a judge in Washington last week.

The money was sent to offshore bank accounts, then some of it was moved to companies that were nothing more than shells.

Court records describe a series of contract manipulations involving Momon and "Person A, Person B and Person C." Other court records identify Person A as Cockerham, while the others' identities are not disclosed.

"In or around October 2005, Momon, Person A and Person B met in Person A's car to discuss opportunities identified by Person A and Person B for personal profit from contracting actions," according to one court document. "During this meeting, Person A and Person B explained to Momon how to hide those profits in foreign bank accounts and sham companies."

For example, Momon was paid 50 cents for each case of bottled water that a contractor delivered to troops, and "Person A" - Cockerham - received about 50 percent of Momon's take, court documents said. Sometimes, the bribe was $1 a case, plus Momon pocketed $10,000 upfront.

Cockerham pleaded guilty Feb. 1 to bribery, money laundering and conspiracy to commit bribery for colluding with contractors who provided $9.6 million and had agreed to pay $5.4 million more.

The scheme included a $100,000 payoff from an Atlanta-area contractor, Terry Hall, to Momon at Atlanta's main airport, and another $100,000 payment in Kuwait. Cockerham got similar cash payments, some of which were stuffed into bags and picked up by his wife and sister in the Middle East.

Some of the companies and shells were set up in Killeen, Alabama and Georgia and run out of the private homes of people who since have been blackballed from doing business with the U.S. government.

Hall is accused of registering a corporation called Omega Construction and Support Services in an undisclosed location in the United States. Its purpose was to help funnel bribe payments to Momon without detection, court records said.

Momon, a 1994 graduate of The Citadel, has been cooperating for several months with agents and signed a plea deal June 12 admitting to conspiracy and two counts of bribery. In the deal, he admits receiving $1.6 million in bribes from contractors between Sept. 21, 2005, and Nov. 14, 2007. The plea documents, however, say he will pay restitution of $5.8 million. His plea hearing is July 23 in Washington.

Momon's help enabled agents to arrest and charge Hall in December.

Hall, who's awaiting trial on bribery charges in Washington, owned or controlled companies implicated in the graft: Freedom Consulting and Catering Co., U.S. Eagles Services Corp. and Total Government Allegiance. All have offices in Killeen, while Eagles Services also lists an address at a home in Madison, Ala., owned by Eddie Pressley, who while in the Army was Cockerham's roommate at Camp Arifjan.

In March, the Army blackballed Hall, Pressley and Hall's companies, along with four of his employees. The Army also suspended other companies and individuals affiliated with the group: Bluebridge International General Contracting & Trading and Trimedpro Project Management, Finbar J. Charles and his employee, Maria Rosario Charles.

Bluebridge's Web site describes Finbar Charles as its founder. The company's Web site prominently boasts about one of the contracts it received in 2005 and 2006, which includes at least $8 million to provide bottled water to troops in Iraq and Jordan. The contract number is identified in Momon's plea paperwork as one obtained through bribery.

None of the individuals could be reached for comment this week, and Momon has refused comment.

As of Thursday, no companies or individuals had challenged the suspensions.

"All are still excluded from contracting with the government," Army spokesman David Foster said.

8/14/2008 8:55 AM  
Blogger Dick Durata said...

Wow!
Looking forward to the follow-up.
Thanks!

8/14/2008 10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here are two follow-ups identifying more companies in the corruption:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/Documents_offer_a_lookat_web_of_war-zone_fraud.html

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/New_federal_indictment_sheds_light_on_schemes.html

9/11/2008 11:37 AM  
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