The War Profiteers - War Crimes, Kidnappings & Torture
November 6th, 2009 - Feds File Suit Over Bribery Scheme in Iraq
By Guillermo Contreras
San Antonio Express-News
November 6, 2009
The Justice Department on Thursday sued Army Maj. John Cockerham, three Kuwaiti contractors and four company officials over allegations they were involved in the largest bribery case authorities said has come out of the war in Iraq.
Separately, the department filed charges in San Antonio against former Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Theresa Russell, once accused of deserting the military, in anticipation that she will plead guilty to laundering more than $31,000 obtained through bribery in Iraq.
The Cockerham lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Antonio, alleges that from 2004 to 2006, Green Valley Co., Jireh Springs General Trading and Contracting Establishment and Palm Springs General Trading and Contracting Establishment engaged in a bribery scheme with him and fellow Maj. James Momon.
Cockerham, who was last based at Fort Sam Houston, was deployed as a contracting officer at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, from mid-2004 to late 2005, when much of the corruption occurred. Momon replaced him. Both have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
Cockerham admitted he collected $9.6 million of the $15 million in bribes he expected to make from the three companies and several others, and was to share some ill-gotten gains with Momon, who collected more than $5 million himself.
The suit says Saud Al Tawash, who owned or controlled the companies, provided kickbacks to Cockerham's sister, Carolyn Blake, so the major would steer contracts for bottled water, tents and wastewater removal services to the contractors.
Blake and the major's wife, Melissa Cockerham, have pleaded guilty to conspiring with Cockerham. Al Tawash also promised Momon kickbacks for his help in the scheme, the suit says.
Russell, meanwhile, will plead guilty later this month to receiving $31,000 from ex-Army Maj. John Allen Rivard, 49, who is serving five years in prison for collecting more than $220,000 in kickbacks in a separate contract-rigging scheme in Iraq.
Rivard, the acting chief of contracting at Camp Anaconda, Iraq, between April 2004 and February 2005, had a romantic relationship with Russell.
The two knew each other from a unit in Oklahoma.
“She'll be accepting responsibility for her actions, but there will be mitigating factors at her sentencing,” said Russell's lawyer, Louis Correa.
In 2005, Russell was charged with desertion after failing to return to Iraq after a two-week leave. She was cleared, however.
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