Inside the world of war profiteers

From prostitutes to Super bowl tickets, a federal probe reveals how contractors in Iraq cheated the U.S.

By David Jackson and Jason Grotto

Tribune reporters

February 21, 2008

ROCK ISLAND, Ill.—Inside the stout federal courthouse of this Mississippi River town, the dirty secrets of Iraq war profiteering keep pouring out.

Hundreds of pages of recently unsealed court records detail how kickbacks shaped the war’s largest troop support contract months before the first wave of U.S. soldiers plunged their boots into Iraqi sand.

The graft continued well beyond the 2004 congressional hearings that first called attention to it. And the massive fraud endangered the health of American soldiers even as it lined contractors’ pockets, records show.

Federal prosecutors in Rock Island have indicted four former supervisors from KBR, the giant defense firm that holds the contract, along with a decorated Army officer and five executives from KBR subcontractors based in the U.S. or the Middle East. Those defendants, along with two other KBR employees who have pleaded guilty in Virginia, account for a third of the 36 people indicted to date on Iraq war-contract crimes, Justice Department records show.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Rock Island sentenced the Army official, Chief Warrant Officer Peleti “Pete” Peleti Jr., to 28 months in prison for taking bribes. One Middle Eastern subcontractor treated him to a trip to the 2006 Super Bowl, a defense investigator said.

Prosecutors would not confirm or deny ongoing grand jury activity. But court records identify a dozen FBI, IRS and military investigative agents who have been assigned to the case. Interviews as well as testimony at the sentencing for Peleti, who has cooperated with authorities, suggest an active probe.

Rock Island serves as a center for the probe of war profiteering because Army brass at the arsenal here administer KBR’s so-called LOGCAP III contract to feed, shelter and support U.S. soldiers, and to help restore Iraq’s oil infrastructure.

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