Former Army employee admits taking kickbacks

September 7, 2012 - 7:35 PM

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A former Army Corps of Engineers employee pleaded guilty Friday to pocketing nearly $3.7 million in kickbacks for providing confidential information to two men working for companies awarded government contracts in Iraq.

Federal prosecutors said John Alfy Salama Markus took bribes from men whose companies were awarded more than $50 million in Iraqi reconstruction contracts. Salama Markus worked for the corps at Contingency Operating Base Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq, from 2005 to 2008 and dealt with oversight of awarded contracts.

Salama Markus pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and failing to file a U.S. Treasury report. He faces up to 35 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. He will be sentenced Jan. 8.

Salama Markus, 40, and four other men were charged in a 54-count indictment last year.

Salama Markus used his job to "manipulate and influence the bidding, selection, award and administration" of reconstruction contracts, prosecutors said in court documents. Markus would supply the men with confidential information about bidding and finances and approve and modify invoices. In return, prosecutors said, Salama Markus received a cut of the awarded money. He documented payments in emails and spreadsheets found on his home computer, prosecutors said.

One spreadsheet showed Salama Markus demanded — and was paid — 10 percent of a $19.58 million contract.

Salama Markus, an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen, and the two other defendants put the money into banks in Egypt and Jordan and transferred it to at least 11 accounts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, authorities said.

Prosecutors said Salama Markus built a $1.1 million house in Nazareth, Pa., with the money. He must forfeit the house, along with $3.7 million, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a Cadillac, Corvette and other cars as part of the plea agreement.

"Salama Markus treated projects to secure safe access to fuel, electricity, education and medical treatment as prizes to be won by whoever was willing to pay for them," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement. "Bribery, whether at home or abroad, violates our laws and tarnishes all who serve our country with honor. It should never be viewed as part of the cost of doing business with the United States."