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US: Construction workers in kickback ring

US: Construction workers in kickback ring

Eight people connected to a tribally-owned construction company were indicted by a federal grand jury in an elaborate kickback and money laundering scheme involving Iraqi construction projects, U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales announced Friday.
The 91-count indictment filed this week said former officers of Laguna Construction Co. and four foreign nationals from Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon face charges including conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering after a four-year, international investigation involving U.S. defense contracts for wartime rebuilding projects in Iraq.
The scheme sought to defraud the U.S. Department of Defense out of millions of dollars by submitting false subcontracting claims from offices in Albuquerque, San Antonio, Texas, Iraq and Jordan, authorities said.
The indictment charges former company president Neal Kasper, 62, of Texas, former vice president Bradley Christiansen, 46, of New Mexico and manager Tiffany White, 45, of Texas, with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. of more than $5 million through wire fraud.
Christiansen's wife, Sara Christiansen, was charged with money laundering and conspiracy.
Mustapha Ahmad, who is a Lebanese citizen, Ali Al Aridhi, who is a citizen of Iraq, and Jordanian citizens Ramzi Snobar and Yacoub Snobar also were charged with participating in the wire fraud conspiracy.
"The indictment alleges that the defendants flagrantly enriched themselves at the expense of the Iraqi people _ the very people they were there to help _ and American taxpayers," Gonzales said. "The message here is simple: Stealing from our government is just as intolerable whether done here or abroad."
It was unclear whether any of the indicted former employees had hired attorneys. There was no answer at a phone number listed for Kasper. A phone message left at the Christiansens' home was not immediately returned, and White did not have a phone number listed at her address.
An official with Laguna Construction Co., a federally designated minority disadvantaged business owned by Laguna Pueblo, said the company would issue a statement later Friday.
Officials with the Laguna Pueblo tribe, located 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Albuquerque, did not have an immediate comment.
According to the indictment, the Defense Department funded numerous construction and rebuilding projects in Iraq and Jordan during the Iraqi war and to 2011. The contracts included ones administered by the United States Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment.
Authorities said the Laguna Construction Co. successfully bid and was awarded more than $350 million in contracts for wartime reconstruction projects.
But federal authorities said from January 2004 through February 2009, Kasper, Bradley Christiansen and White colluded with the foreign nationals to defraud the U.S. of more than $5 million through overcharges, subcontractor kickbacks and money laundering.
The indictment said Kasper, White and the Christiansens tried to conceal the kickbacks by transferring money into bank accounts of relatives and companies they controlled. Authorities said they accepted kickbacks in the form of automobiles and cash, and used the funds to remodel residential real property.
The American defendants are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque on March 15 for arraignments. Federal authorities said the whereabouts of the foreign nationals are unknown.
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Updated : 2021-05-12 23:39 GMT+08:00