U.S. sues former Army officer & three contracting firms in connection with bribery

Published November 16th, 2009 - 03:37 GMT

A civil lawsuit was filed today
against a former U.S. Army officer and three contracting firms related to an alleged
bribery scheme in connection with the awarding of contracts for services in Kuwait,
the Justice Department announced. Former Army officer John Cockerham Jr., who is
named as a defendant in the lawsuit, previously pleaded guilty to criminal charges
along with another former officer, James Momon Jr.

The government's complaint alleges that from 2004 to 2006, several Kuwaiti
companies, including Green Valley Co., Palm Springs General Trading and Contracting
Establishment and Jireh Springs General Trading and Contracting Establishment,
engaged in a bribery scheme with Cockerham and Momon in exchange for their promises
to award Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) for the purchase of bottled water, tents
and wastewater removal services from Kuwaiti-based Army camps. A BPA is a simplified
acquisition method that federal agencies use to fill anticipated repetitive needs
for supplies or services.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas,
alleges that defendant Saud Al Tawash provided payments to Cockerham's sister,
Carolyn Blake, in exchange for BPAs awarded to or performed by Green Valley, Palm
Springs and Jireh Springs, companies which he owned, controlled, or had an interest
in, according to the complaint. The complaint also alleges Mohammed Howaiji, Green
Valley's assistant manager, and Joseph E. Nakouzi, its head supervisor, agreed to
pay Cockerham $300,000 in exchange for the BPAs. According to the complaint,
Cockerham awarded the BPAs to Green Valley at inflated prices. The complaint charges
that after Momon replaced Cockerham as the Army's contracting officer, he also took
over the bribery scheme and received $510,000 from Green Valley.

The government's complaint further alleges that Jamal Al Dhama, the manager of Jireh
Springs, promised Cockerham $1.5 million to award a BPA to that firm. Saud Al
Tawash, acting on behalf of Jireh Springs, later offered Momon a bribe for Momon's
assistance in obtaining payment for Jireh Springs on a bottled water delivery,
according to the lawsuit.

"The Department of Justice will vigorously protect taxpayer funds from fraud,
especially where the fraud impacts contracts intended to support our troops," said
Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. "This case
demonstrates our commitment to bring civil lawsuits to recover government losses
from individuals and companies who defraud the U.S. Treasury."

The government is seeking treble damages under the False Claims Act, and a number of
other remedies.

Cockerham previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States,
bribery and money laundering conspiracy. Momon pleaded guilty to bribery and
conspiracy to commit bribery. Neither has been sentenced yet.

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