Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Bush administration is not only worse than you imagine even after taking account of the fact that it is worse than you imagine, it is worse than you can conceivably imagine:

Issuing Contracts, Ex-Convict Took Bribes in Iraq, U.S. Says - New York Times : By JAMES GLANZ: A North Carolina man who was charged yesterday with accepting kickbacks and bribes as a comptroller and financial officer for the American occupation authority in Iraq was hired despite having served prison time for felony fraud in the 1990's. The job gave the man, Robert J. Stein, control over $82 million in cash earmarked for Iraqi rebuilding projects.

Along with a web of other conspirators who have not yet been named, Mr. Stein and his wife received "bribes, kickbacks and gratuities amounting to at least $200,000 per month" to steer lucrative construction contracts to companies run by another American, Philip H. Bloom, an affidavit outlining the criminal complaint says. Mr. Stein's wife, who was not named, has not been charged with wrongdoing in the case; Mr. Bloom was charged with a range of crimes on Wednesday. In the staccato language of the affidavit, filed in Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, Mr. Stein, 50, was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy, interstate transportation of stolen property and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

But the list of charges does little justice to the astonishing brazenness of the accusations described in the complaint, including a wire transfer of a $140,000 bribe, arranged by Mr. Bloom, to buy real estate for Mr. Stein in North Carolina. The affidavit also says that $65,762.63 was spent to buy cars for Mr. Stein and his wife (he bought a Chevrolet; she a Toyota), $44,471 for home improvements and $48,073 for jewelry, out of $258,000 sent directly to the Bragg Mutual Federal Credit Union into accounts controlled by the Steins.

Mr. Stein's wife even used $7,151.58 of the money for a "towing service," the complaint says. Much of this money was intended for Iraqi construction projects like building a new police academy in the ancient city of Babylon and rehabilitating the library in Karbala, the southern city that is among the holiest sites for Shiite Muslims.

After Mr. Stein awarded contracts for this work to Mr. Bloom, who eventually received at least $3.5 million himself, according to the complaint, the work often was not performed or was done shoddily, the prosecutors say. Mr. Stein was arrested in North Carolina on Monday, the Justice Department said in a statement. He appeared in court on Tuesday, represented by Jane Pearce, an assistant federal public defender in North Carolina's Eastern District, said Elizabeth Luck, a spokeswoman for the office. The Eastern District includes Fayetteville, where Mr. Stein is listed as a homeowner.

Beyond confirming Mr. Stein's appearance in court, "we do not comment on pending litigation in this office," Ms. Luck said, adding that she could not say whether Mr. Stein planned to retain a private lawyer. Little is known about Mr. Stein except that he served in the Army and was convicted in federal court in 1996 for "access device fraud," a felony. Court papers show he was sentenced to eight months in prison and ordered to pay $45,339.25 in restitution.

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Do it now.

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