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Federal investigators probing military contract fraud and corruption allegations

[JURIST] Federal investigators are probing allegations of fraud and corruption related to $6 billion in military contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a Pentagon official testifying before the House Armed Services Committee [official website] Thursday. At the hearing [recorded audio], Principal Deputy Inspector General at the Department of Defense Thomas Gimble [official profile] testified [statement, PDF] that his office is currently conducting 90 investigations and 29 audits related to the money spent on the wars so far. The investigations cover issues like procurement fraud, overcharges, false claims, public corruption, theft of money or property and violations of US export rules. Most of the investigations originated in either Iraq or Kuwait and target military and civilian government personnel, and contractors from the United States and other countries. Agents are also investigating the oversight of the American weapons bound for Iraqi forces and whether weapons destined for the Iraqis were in fact transferred. AP has more.

These are not the first allegations of contract fraud connected with Iraq. In August, the US Department of Defense [official website] announced it was sending an investigative team [JURIST report] headed by Pentagon Inspector General Claude M. Kicklighter [official website] to Iraq to probe incongruities concerning weapons and supplies bought by the US and intended for the use of Iraqi forces. 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. 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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