by bvernia | December 4th, 2009
DOJ announced on December 3 the sentencing of former Army officer John Cockerham, Jr., his wife, sister, and niece, following their guilty pleas to charges that they accepted bribes in exchange for contracts relating to the war in Iraq. Cockerham received the longest sentence, 210 months, and was ordered to pay $9.6 million in restitution. The others received sentences of 12 to 70 months, and were also ordered to pay restitution.
According to DOJ’s announcement:
John Cockerham pleaded guilty in February 2008 to conspiracy, bribery and money laundering for his participation in a complex bribery scheme while working as an Army contracting officer in Kuwait in 2004 and 2005. Cockerham was responsible for awarding contracts for services to be delivered to troops in Iraq, including bottled water. Cockerham admitted that in return for awarding contracts, he received more than $9 million in bribe proceeds. Once Cockerham agreed to take money in exchange for awarding contracts, he directed the contractors to pay his wife and sister, among others, in order to conceal the receipt of bribe payments.
Melissa Cockerham pleaded guilty in February 2008 to money laundering for accepting $1.4 million on John Cockerham’s behalf, and admitted that she stored the money in safe deposit boxes at banks in Kuwait and Dubai. Carolyn Blake pleaded guilty in March 2009 to money laundering for accepting more than $3 million on John Cockerham’s behalf, and admitted that she stored the money in safe deposit boxes at banks in Kuwait. Blake also admitted that she intended to keep 10 percent of the money that she collected. Both Melissa Cockerham and Carolyn Blake also admitted that they obstructed justice by impeding and obstructing the investigation.
Nyree Pettaway pleaded guilty in July 2009 to conspiring with John Cockerham, Carolyn Blake and others, to obstruct the investigation of money laundering related to Cockerham’s receipt of bribes. Pettaway admitted that Cockerham solicited her help in creating cover stories for the millions of dollars he received and in returning $3 million in cash to co-conspirators for safekeeping. Pettaway also admitted that she traveled to Kuwait in January 2007, received the cash from Blake, and gave it to others to hold for Cockerham. To date, the United States has recovered more than $3 million in bribe proceeds.
The case is being handled by Richard B. Evans of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Trial Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Emily W. Allen of the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section.