The War Profiteers - War Crimes, Kidnappings & Torture
July 28th, 2009 - Cockerham Niece to Plead Guilty in Kickback Scheme
By Guillermo Contreras
San Antonio Express-News
July 28, 2009
A niece of Army Maj. John Cockerham, whose $15-million kickback scheme is the largest graft case to emerge from the war in Iraq, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring with her uncle and others to obstruct justice.
Nyree Pettaway, 36, of suburban Houston, is scheduled to enter the plea today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Mathy in federal court in San Antonio.
After her role became apparent, Pettaway agreed to cooperate with investigators from several agencies, who first raided Cockerham's home on Fort Sam Houston in December 2006.
There they uncovered the massive taxpayer rip-off that began in 2004 when Cockerham was deployed to Kuwait as a contracting officer.
Investigators found ledgers documenting $9.6 million in bribes Cockerham had already received - and $5.4 million more he expected to get - from companies that paid him in exchange for lucrative U.S. military bottled-water contracts.
The evidence revealed millions of dollars hidden in safe-deposit boxes in the Middle East.
After the raid, Cockerham pretended to cooperate with investigators. However, when they served another search warrant in summer 2007 at a second home he had moved to, they found evidence that he and his wife, Melissa, were involved in a cover-up.
The evidence seized included documentation of alibis to be used if law enforcement asked questions, including saying the money was for personal loans, consultant fees and loans to establish businesses. Also found was evidence that Cockerham had returned money to the contractors so they could hide it for him in bank accounts in the Caribbean.
Cockerham, who pleaded guilty in February 2008 to bribery and money-laundering related charges, awaits sentencing.
Melissa Cockerham and his sister, Carolyn Blake of suburban Dallas, pleaded guilty to charges that they picked up some of the bribe money on his behalf and aided the cover-up.
Following the first raid, John Cockerham asked his niece for help in relaying sensitive messages, passing documents and delivering money to co-conspirators in Kuwait as part of the cover-up, court records said.
The records said Pettaway created an e-mail account using a fake name to tell co-conspirators to destroy evidence and to lie to, mislead or stall investigators.
A month after the first raid, in January 2007, Pettaway delivered fraudulent and misleading agreements and other documents for signatures, and returned at least one to Cockerham, according to her plea agreement.
External link: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/51805147.html