Inside the world of war profiteers
From prostitutes to Super bowl tickets, a federal probe reveals how contractors in Iraq cheated the U.S.
Inside the stout federal courthouse of this Mississippi River town, the dirty secrets of Iraq war profiteering keep pouring out.
Hundreds of pages of recently unsealed court records detail how kickbacks shaped the war's largest troop support contract months before the first wave of U.S. soldiers plunged their boots into Iraqi sand.
The graft continued well beyond the 2004 congressional hearings that first called attention to it. And the massive fraud endangered the health of American soldiers even as it lined contractors' pockets, records show.
Federal prosecutors in Rock Island have indicted four former supervisors from KBR, the giant defense firm that holds the contract, along with a decorated Army officer and five executives from KBR subcontractors based in the U.S. or the Middle East. Those defendants, along with two other KBR employees who have pleaded guilty in Virginia, account for a third of the 36 people indicted to date on Iraq war-contract crimes, Justice Department records show.
On Wednesday, a federal judge in Rock Island sentenced the Army official, Chief Warrant Officer Peleti "Pete" Peleti Jr., to 28 months in prison for taking bribes. One Middle Eastern subcontractor treated him to a trip to the 2006 Super Bowl, a defense investigator said.
Prosecutors would not confirm or deny ongoing grand jury activity. But court records identify a dozen FBI, IRS and military investigative agents who have been assigned to the case. Interviews as well as testimony at the sentencing for Peleti, who has cooperated with authorities, suggest an active probe.
Rock Island serves as a center for the probe of war profiteering because Army brass at the arsenal here administer KBR's so-called LOGCAP III contract to feed, shelter and support U.S. soldiers, and to help restore Iraq's oil infrastructure.
In one case, a freight-shipping subcontractor confessed to giving $25,000 in illegal gratuities to five unnamed KBR employees "to build relationships to get additional business," according to the man's December 2007 statement to a federal judge in the Rock Island court. Separately, Peleti named five military colleagues who allegedly accepted bribes. Prosecutors also have identified three senior KBR executives who allegedly approved inflated bids. None of those 13 people has been charged.
A common thread runs through these cases and other KBR scandals in Iraq, from allegations the firm failed to protect employees sexually assaulted by co-workers to findings that it charged $45 per can of soda: The Pentagon has outsourced crucial troop support jobs while slashing the number of government contract watchdogs.