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Pentagon auditors investigating alleged Iraq contract fraud

[JURIST] The US Department of Defense [official website] will send an investigative team headed by Pentagon Inspector General Claude M. Kicklighter [official website] to Iraq to probe allegations of fraud and corruption related to military contracts, a DOD spokesman said Tuesday. The team will concentrate on incongruities concerning weapons and supplies bought by the US and intended for the use of Iraqi forces. As of last week, 73 criminal investigations were underway into contracts valued at more than $5 billion, Army spokesman Col. Dan Baggio said Monday; 20 military and civilian figures, including an officer who worked closely with Gen. David Petraeus [official profile], have already been indicted. The New York Times reported Tuesday that multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are conducting their own investigations into the matter. AP has more.

These are not the first allegations of contract fraud connected with the Iraq reconstruction. In July, federal authorities arrested and charged [press release; JURIST report] a former school teacher for accepting kickbacks from contractors attempting to obtain military contracts in Iraq. Carolyn Blake was alleged to have been involved in a scheme with her brother, Major John L. Cockerham, and his wife, Melissa Cockerham, in which she received $3.1 million from contractors in 2004 and 2005. According to US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction [official website] Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the Cockerham scheme was the largest case of bribery connected with the Iraq reconstruction effort at the time. The Cockerhams were arrested and charged with money laundering, bribery and conspiracy [DOJ press release] for receiving up to $9.6 million in kickbacks. In June, former US Army Reserve Lt. Col. Bruce D. Hopfengardner was sentenced to 21 months [JURIST report] in prison for taking bribes and defrauding the Coalition Provisional Authority [official website] in Iraq.

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