WASHINGTON - A New Jersey accountant pleaded guilty today to laundering portions of more than $300,000 stolen from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in the Republic of Iraq and brought back to the United States by his wife, a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. This case was the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its law enforcement partners.
"ICE commends the outstanding law enforcement efforts carried out with our federal partners to include the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, the FBI, and the IRS in combating this deplorable offense of public corruption," said James A. Dinkins, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Washington, D.C.
William Driver, 45, of Trenton, N.J., pleaded guilty before Judge Mary L. Cooper at the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Trenton Division. At the plea hearing, Driver admitted that his wife, former Lt. Col. Debra Harrison, was assigned to the CPA - South Central Region (CPA-SC) as the deputy comptroller and acting comptroller from April though June 2004. He admitted that Harrison stole money from the CPA-SC and then transported it back to their home in Trenton. Driver admitted that he contacted a home improvements company to build a deck on their home, and from October through December 2004, he and Harrison made four payments of $9,000 each to the contractor using the stolen cash. Harris admitted he and his wife made the payments in cash to evade transaction reporting requirements when the contractor deposited the funds at a bank. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 3, 2009.
"By abusing their positions and those of family members, these defendants chose personal profit over their duty to their fellow citizens and soldiers," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. "The plea entered today by William Driver proves our dedication to unraveling networks of bribery and money laundering to ensure all those involved are held accountable."
"These individuals lined their pockets with someone else's money but thanks to the career agents, analysts and prosecutors from several agencies who worked together to trace the international money trail, this scheme of fraud and corruption was halted," said Joseph Persichini Jr, assistant director of the FBI's Washington Field Office.
"These former senior CPA officials, their associates and a corrupt contractor betrayed their fellow U.S. citizens and the people of Iraq," added Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). "The extensive criminal investigation and prosecution efforts in this case, which originated from a SIGIR audit, demonstrate our continuing, coordinated commitment to detect and prosecute those who would defraud the U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq."
"IRS-Criminal Investigation is committed to unraveling complex financial transactions and money laundering schemes where individuals attempt to conceal the true source of their money," stated Eileen Mayer, chief, IRS Criminal Investigation.
Driver is the seventh defendant convicted as part of a multi-agency investigation into fraud and corruption involving U.S. military and civilian employees detailed to the CPA-SC in Al-Hillah, Iraq. Harrison pleaded guilty on July 28, 2008, to one count of honest services wire fraud for her role in the scheme. At her plea hearing, Harrison admitted that she took more than $300,000 from the CPA-SC while deployed there and that she used some of the stolen money to make improvements at her home. Harrison also admitted that in August 2004 she received a Cadillac Escalade from Philip Bloom, a contractor at the CPA-SC.
On Jan. 29, 2007, co-conspirator Robert Stein was sentenced to nine years in prison for related charges of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering, as well as weapons possession charges, for his role in the same scheme. Stein was also ordered to forfeit $3.6 million for his role in the bribery and money laundering scheme.
On Feb. 16, 2007, co-conspirator Philip Bloom was sentenced to 46 months in prison on related charges of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering for his role in the scheme. Bloom was also ordered to forfeit $3.6 million for his role in the bribery and money laundering scheme.
On June 25, 2007, co-conspirator Lt. Col. Bruce Hopfengardner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for conspiracy and money laundering related to this scheme. Hopfengardner was also ordered to forfeit $144,500.
Driver was initially charged on Feb. 1, 2007, in a 25-count indictment along with Harrison, Col. Curtis Whiteford, Lt. Col. Michael Wheeler and Seymour Morris Jr. Whiteford was the second-most senior official and highest ranking military officer at CPA-SC and Wheeler was an adviser and project officer for CPA reconstruction projects. Whiteford and Wheeler were convicted by a jury on Nov. 7, 2008, of conspiracy to commit bribery and interstate transportation of stolen property. Morris was acquitted at trial.
The cases were investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation, SIGIR, ICE and the FBI's Washington Field Office.