The War Profiteers - War Crimes, Kidnappings & Torture
July 29th, 2009 - Woman Admits Role in Iraq War Bribery Case
By Guillermo Contreras
San Antonio Express-News
July 29, 2009
Earlier this year, Nyree Pettaway was summoned from her contracting job in Kuwait to testify as a witness in a massive military graft investigation involving her uncle, Fort Sam Houston-based Army Maj. John Cockerham.
But after she returned to the United States, she became a defendant instead. On Tuesday, Pettaway, 36, left federal court in San Antonio as a felon, facing roughly two years in prison for her role in the largest bribery case to emerge from the war in Iraq.
Amid tears, Pettaway pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice, admitting she helped Cockerham, his sister, Carolyn Blake, and others cover up $15 million in bribes Cockerham expected to get or had already received. Cockerham pleaded guilty in February 2008 to charges that he steered bottled-water contracts to certain contractors in exchange for bribes.
“Her role was ... doing what her uncle told her to do,” Pettaway's lawyer, Allen Cazier, said.
Blake pleaded guilty in March to picking up $3.1 million in bribes on her brother's behalf and storing it in safe-deposit boxes in the Middle East.
Pettaway, like Blake, became a participant in the scheme at the request of Cockerham, according to court records. Both women worked with separate contractors in Kuwait while Cockerham served as a contracting officer there between 2004 and 2005.
Pettaway's plea documents said that, after investigators raided Cockerham's home on Fort Sam Houston in December 2006, Cockerham asked her for help.
Pettaway set up an e-mail account under a false name to communicate with Cockerham's bribers, delivered paperwork to them used to cover up the kickbacks, and returned $3 million of the money that Blake had picked up to contractors so they could hide it, Pettaway's plea documents said.
As part of her plea deal, Pettaway admitted her actions helped put $5 million out of the government's reach.
Cockerham, Blake, Pettaway and Cockerham's wife, Melissa Cockerham - who pleaded guilty to picking up $1.9 million on her husband's behalf - face sentencing in September.
External link: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/51946547.html