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DOJ files charges in Iraq reconstruction bribery scheme

[JURIST] Federal authorities have arrested and charged [DOJ press release] a former school teacher for accepting kickbacks from contractors attempting to obtain military contracts in Iraq, the US Justice Department announced Thursday. Carolyn Blake is 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 (SIGIR) [official website] Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the Cockerham scheme is the largest case of bribery connected with the Iraq reconstruction effort. The Cockerhams were arrested and charged with money laundering, bribery and conspiracy [DOJ press release] earlier this week 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 (CPA) [official website] in Iraq. In May, Bowen testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, reporting that investigators would employ stricter standards [JURIST report] when dealing with companies performing contract work in Iraq. At the time of his testimony, 16 people had been convicted for fraud and kickbacks received in connection with the reconstruction. AP has more.

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