US Army Major Guilty of Iraq Bribery

A former U.S. Army major and his wife have been convicted of bribery and money laundering in a huge scheme that illegally funneled some $60 million in Iraq war contracts, the Justice Department said on Wednesday according to a report from AFP.

Eddie Pressley and his wife Eurica, from Harvest, Alabama, engaged in "an audacious plan to take bribes in exchange for official contracting action on behalf of the U.S. Army, and together they accepted nearly $3 million in illegal payments," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a statement.

He said the pair were "the latest in a line of 16 defendants to be convicted at trial or plead guilty for the bribery scheme at Camp Arifjan," a U.S. military base in Kuwait, where Pressley served as a U.S. Army contracting official between 2004 and 2005. Previously, 14 people had pleaded guilty to a mix of charges. Eight were former officers or enlisted personnel.

According to the Justice Department, Pressley arranged for companies owned or invested in by another American, Terry Hall, to receive contracts for goods and services for the U.S. military such as fencing or bottled water, with Hall and others providing some $2.9 million in bribes for the contracts.

The Pressleys hid the proceeds in off-shore bank accounts, and used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle which included the purchase of real estate, fancy cars and home decorating services, the Justice Department said.

A federal jury in the state of Alabama convicted the couple Tuesday on 22 counts in connection with schemes, including one count of bribery, one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, eight counts of honest services fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy and 11 counts of engaging in monetary transactions with criminal proceeds.

They face decades behind bars, including 15 years in prison for bribery, 20 years for each of the eight fraud counts, and 15 years for each of the 11 counts of monetary transactions with criminal proceeds. Sentencing is set for June 29.

The Pressleys agreed to forfeit more than $27 million gained through the scheme.

Hall pleaded guilty in February and agreed to forfeit $15.7 million, while other convicted defendants have forfeited at least $15.5 million.

(Sources: AFP, Wall Street Journal)

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