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5 Charged in Iraq Bribery Scheme Print

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 (Reuters) — Three Army Reserve officers and two American civilians have been charged with taking or arranging for more than $1 million in cash, sports cars, jewelry and other items to be used as bribes in rigging bids on Iraqi reconstruction contracts, United States officials said Wednesday.

They said the five have been indicted by a federal grand jury in New Jersey in a scheme that involved the theft of millions of dollars of Iraq reconstruction money and the awarding of contracts to Philip Bloom, who doled out the bribes.

The officials said the agency in charge of Iraqi reconstruction lost more than $3.6 million because of the corruption scheme that began in December 2003 and lasted two years.

Mr. Bloom, who has already pleaded guilty, received more than $8.6 million in rigged contracts, the officials said.

They said more than $500,000 was smuggled into the United States. “They stole the money in Iraq and then smuggled vast sums into the United States to support lavish lifestyles,” said Mark W. Everson, the Internal Revenue Service commissioner.

The 25-count indictment charged Col. Curtis Whiteford, Lt. Col. Debra Harrison and Lt. Col. Michael Wheeler, and two civilians, Michael Morris and William Driver.

Colonel Whiteford was once the second-most senior official in the Coalition Provisional Authority for the South Central Region in Iraq, while Colonel Harrison was its acting comptroller. Colonel Wheeler was an adviser for Iraqi reconstruction projects.

Mr. Driver is married to Colonel Harrison. Mr. Morris, who was living in Romania, was accused of helping Mr. Bloom funnel money to the military officials. 

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