Three North Carolina soldiers have pled guilty in connection with federal criminal charges of embezzlement related to financial misdeeds with an Afghani contractor. The men, all part of the 82nd Finance Battalion, were tasked with paying contractors during their time at Camp Eggers in Kabul. Authorities report that the service members conspired to steal nearly $1.3 million from a private contractor while serving in the country.
Official reports show that the financial inconsistencies were discovered in 2009, when the Abdul Wasi Faquiri Co. inquired about a possible overpayment on its contract. An investigation determined that the company was not to blame for the overpayment, but rather the money had been stolen by the soldiers, who had conspired with an Afghan national.
The men were able to steal the money by having the contractor wire the funds to a bank account. The Afghan national helped the soldiers by withdrawing some of the money and delivering it to the camp, where the suspects divvied up the spoils. Money from the scheme was used to purchase silk Persian rugs, real estate and other goods. Thirteen rugs have thus far been confiscated by federal agents, and more property is currently disputed.
The three men have not yet faced sentencing in connection with the case, though their guilty pleas are likely to provide them with some measure of leniency. By pleading guilty, the trio essentially acknowledged that the federal government had enough evidence to convict during a jury trial. As a result, the court proceedings connected with the case will take far less time and money than they would have in the event of a trial.
Plea bargains for guilty pleas are useful because they can help lower the severity of the charges associated with a specific crime. In addition, some charges may be dismissed altogether. It appears that all three of the men were charged with the same crimes, so their sentences will probably be similar.
Source: WRAL.com, "NC soldiers plead guilty to stealing $1.3 million from Afghan firm," March 19, 2013