- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Three former U.S. Army Reserve officers and two civilians have been indicted in Trenton, N.J., in a bribery, fraud and money laundering scheme involving the theft of millions of dollars from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq.

Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty said the 25-count grand jury indictment, unsealed yesterday, names Col. Curtis G. Whiteford of Utah, Lt. Cols. Debra M. Harrison of New Jersey and Michael B. Wheeler of Wisconsin, and civilians Michael Morris and William Driver, in a bid-rigging conspiracy targeting the CPA in al-Hillah, Iraq.

“This indictment alleges that the defendants flagrantly enriched themselves at the expense of the Iraqi people — the very people they were there to help,” said Mr. McNulty. “U.S. government officials working in Iraq are not for sale.”

The indictments come in the wake of testimony this week before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, during which Democrats challenged L. Paul Bremer III, former U.S. occupation chief in Iraq, regarding his oversight of $12 billion in Iraqi reconstruction money.

Mr. McNulty said Col. Whiteford, once the second-most senior official at CPA’s South Central Region, Col. Harrison, former acting comptroller at CPA-SC who oversaw the expenditure of funds for reconstruction projects, and Col. Wheeler, an adviser for CPA construction projects, were named on multiple counts of conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, interstate transport of stolen property, bulk cash smuggling, money laundering and tax violations.

He said Mr. Morris, a U.S. citizen in Romania who owns a Cyprus-based financial services business, was charged with conspiracy and wire fraud, and Mr. Driver, who is Col. Harrison’s husband, was charged with money laundering. Mr. Morris was arrested by Romanian authorities Tuesday and is the subject of an extradition request by the U.S. government to have him returned to New Jersey to stand trial.

According to the indictment, from December 2003 through December 2005, Cols. Whiteford, Harrison and Wheeler, along with Mr. Morris, conspired with at least three others — Robert Stein, former comptroller and funding officer for the CPA-SC; Philip H. Bloom, a U.S. citizen who owned several companies in Iraq and Romania; and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bruce D. Hopfengardner — to rig bids on contracts being awarded by CPA-SC so they went to Bloom.

The indictment said Bloom received more than $8.6 million in rigged contracts and, in return, gave Cols. Whiteford, Harrison and Wheeler, along with Stein, Hopfengardner and others, over $1 million in cash, SUVs, sports cars, a motorcycle, jewelry, computers, business class airline tickets, liquor, promise of future employment and other items.

It also said Bloom laundered $2 million that Cols. Whiteford, Harrison and Wheeler, along with Hopfengardner, Stein and others, had stolen from the CPA-SC that had been designated for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Bloom, the indictment said, used his foreign bank accounts in Iraq, Romania and Switzerland to send some of the stolen money to Col. Harrison, Stein, Hopfengardner and other Army officials in return for contracts.

The indictment said Col. Harrison and her husband, Mr. Driver, received a Cadillac Escalade as a bribe and used tens of thousands of dollars for improvements to their home in Trenton. It said Col. Whiteford received at least $10,000 in cash, a $3,200 watch, a job offer from Bloom and other valuables.

Stein was sentenced Jan. 29 to nine years in prison, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, possession of machine guns and being a felon in possession of a firearm, for his role in the scheme.

On March 10, Bloom pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering and is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 16. On Aug. 25, Hopfengardner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. His sentencing date is pending.

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