U.S. officer admits to fraud in Iraq

Aug. 25, 2006 at 4:35 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- A U.S. Army reserve lieutenant colonel pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding the U.S. government in Iraq of $175,000.

Bruce D. Hopfengardner, 46, of Fredericksburg, Va., is the first military officer to plead guilty in a fraud scheme perpetrated by several officials and a contractor who worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Hillah, Iraq, in the first year after the U.S. invasion, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Hopfengardner admitted in federal district court in the District of Columbia to conspiring to commit wire fraud, to launder funds and steal currency designated for the reconstruction of Iraq and to steer contracts to a contractor in exchange for money and property.

Hopfengardner also admitted to smuggling stolen currency into the United States in March 2004 when he returned from Iraq on leave.

Hopfengardner was an adviser to the CPA in Hillah, overseeing various construction projects. He, Robert Stein and others steered contracts to Philip Bloom, an American operating construction services and security companies in Iraq, in exchange for cars, jewelry, computers and other items, according to the Justice Department.

According to DOJ, Bloom sent $175,000 in laundered funds to Hopfengardner between February and July 2004. Hopfengardner is forfeiting all property involved in the money laundering scheme including a 2004 Yukon Denali, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, camera equipment, a Breitling watch valued at approximately $5,700, and a computer.

Hopfengardner has also agreed to entry of a judgment of forfeiture of $144,500. He faces up to 20 years in prison, a five-year term of supervised release and a $500,000 fine.

Bloom pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and money laundering in April. Stein pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and two weapons charges in February. Both are in custody awaiting sentencing.

Two other reserve Army lieutenant colonels have been arrested in the case so far.

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