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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Army Bribery|Ring Rolled Up

(CN) - A former Army major was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for bribery and money laundering in war contracts in Iraq.

Eddie Pressley, 41, was also ordered to forfeit $21 million, real estate and several automobiles. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins in Birmingham, Ala.

Pressley and his wife Eurica were convicted in March 2011 of conspiracy to commit bribery, eight counts of honest services fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy and 11 counts of engaging in monetary transactions with criminal proceeds. No date has been set for his wife's sentencing.

"Mr. Pressley participated in a wide-ranging scheme to steer U.S. Army contracts to particular providers in exchange for personal, illegal profit," the Justice Department said in a statement.

"Taking in nearly $3 million, he enlisted his wife to help him conceal the nature of his bribes and created phony paperwork to keep the scheme going."

Prosecutors say the case against the Pressleys arose from a corruption probe at Camp Arifjan, a U.S. military base in Kuwait. Seventeen people, including the Pressleys, have pleaded guilty or convicted at trial for their roles in the scheme.

Pressley was an Army contracting officer at Camp Arifjan in 2004 and 2005. He helped contractors, including Terry Hall, get work in exchange for bribes, prosecutors said.

Hall operated and had an interest in several companies, including Freedom Consulting and Catering Co. and Total Government Allegiance. In February 2005, Pressley arranged for Hall to get a blanket purchase agreement to deliver goods and services to the Department of Defense in Kuwait and elsewhere.

In a blanket purchase agreement, the Pentagon arees to pay a contractor a specified price for a particular good or service. The Pentagon orders the supplies as needed and the contractor delivers the supplies. The term for such a Pentagon order is a "call."

Hall testified that Pressley demanded a $50,000 bribe before he would issue bottled water calls to Hall. Hall testified that in April 2005, he and his associates arranged for Pressley to get the money in a bank account established in the name of a shell company, EGP Business Solutions.

Hall's testimony and other evidence showed that soon after the $50,000 bribe was paid, Pressley and John Cockerham, another Army contracting official, increased the bribe demand to $1.6 million, to be split evenly between the two. After Hall and others agreed to pay the money, Pressley and Cockerham took official acts to benefit Hall, including issuing calls for bottled water and fencing, arranging for Hall to receive a fence contract and modifying Hall's BPA to remove the upper limit of the money Hall could receive from the Pentagon under the bottled water blanket purchase agreement.

Evidence at trial also showed that Eddie Pressley enlisted the help of his wife to receive the bribes. On March 9, 2005, he sent his wife an email in which he told her: "You will be getting some paperwork with your maiden name on it"; "I need you to sign it and mail to whatevery (sic) address on it"; "I am doing some consulting"; and "Of course I am not going to turn down any money, but I can't have anyone paying me in my name because I am in the military so I had them put everything in your maiden name."

Evidence showed that Eurica Pressley traveled to Dubai in May 2005 and to the Cayman Islands in June 2005 to open bank accounts to receive the bribe money. She also took control of the U.S.-based account in the name of EGP Business Solutions.

A law enforcement agent testified about false and misleading statements Eurica Pressley made to him during an interview at her home, including denying that she had any foreign bank accounts.

The Pressleys, Hall and others prepared false invoices to disguise the bribes as payment for nonexistent "consulting services."

Prosecutors said the Pressleys received $2.9 million in bribes, about $1.6 million of it payments from other contractors that Hall facilitated for Eddie Pressley. The Pressleys used the money to buy real estate, expensive automobiles and home decorating services, among other things.

Former Army Major James Momon testified that Eddie Pressley and Cockerham recruited him to join the bribery ring, and that he took official acts to receive bribes from some of the same contractors who paid Pressley and Cockerham, including Hall. Momon testified that Pressley told him that if they got caught they would spend "six years in jail" and that Cockerham and Pressley warned him to be careful.

Cockerham pleaded guiltyin January 2008 bribery and money laundering at Camp Arifjan. He was sentenced in December 2009 to 210 months in prison and ordered to pay $9.6 million in restitution.

Hall pleaded guilty in February 2010 to bribery conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy and agreed to forfeit $15.7 million to the U.S. government in connection with his payment of more than $3 million in bribes to Cockerham, Eddie Pressley, Momon and Christopher Murray. He will be sentenced on Feb. 23.

Momon pleaded guilty in August 2009 to taking $1.6 million in bribes and agreed to pay $5.7 million in restitution. His sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

Murray pleaded guilty in January 2009 to bribery and making a false statement. He was sentenced in December 2009 to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay $245,000 in restitution.

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