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Camp Arifjan Bribe Scheme Nets 17 Convictions and Three Soldier Suicides

On December 11, 2006, Army Criminal Investigations Division paid Major Gloria Davis a visit at her workplace on Camp Victory, Iraq – adjacent to the Baghdad International Airport. Davis was an Army procurement officer, responsible for allocating a number of lucrative contracts for supplies and services for American troops in Iraq. She came to the CID’s notice after officials noticed she had opened two offshore bank accounts in her own name, which had received some $225,000 in transfers.

Major Davis admitted that the money she received was bribes.

Within hours of being questioned, according to military investigators, Major Davis, 47, shot herself.

Meanwhile, Terry Hall, a military contractor who provided food services and security fence construction to American Forces in Kuwait, was sentenced to 39 months in prison last March for running a corrupt kickback scheme.

He’s also been ordered to disgorge $15,757,000 in assets, plus an undisclosed amount of real estate. And his Harley-Davidson.

Uncle Sam don’t play.

Hall’s jail sentence could have been longer, but he’s taking some other dirtbags down with him, including several former Army officers who were involved in the scheme. As it turned out, Hall and Davis were both bit players, compared to some of the other guys.

Here’s how it worked:

Between the spring of 2004 and the fall of 2007, Hall was running a number of companies providing services to U.S. forces, including Freedom Consulting and Catering Co., and Total Government Allegiance. Combined, these two firms received over $20 million for services provided to U.S forces in the region – much of it for delivering bottled water.

According to Hall’s testimony, he paid over $3 million in bribes to U.S. Army contracting officials and procurement officers who were then stationed at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Specifically, he stated he bribed Eddie Pressley, and former Army Majors Christopher Murray, Derrick Shoemake, James Momon and John Cockerham.

They started relatively small: Pressley went to Hall and demanded a $50,000 bribe before he would start routing orders for bottled water through Hall’s company. Hall told prosecutors that he transferred the money to a shell corporation, EGP Business Solutions, Inc., run by Eurica Pressley – Eddie’s wife.

Once they had Hall hooked, they tried to gaffe him under the gills: Pressley and Cockerham demanded another $1.6 million in bribes – $800,000 to each of them.

Hall agreed to pay the money. As soon as he did, the orders started to flow, and the contracting officials lifted the cap on the total amount Hall could receive under the contract.

Eurica Pressley was no innocent spouse. She traveled to Dubai and to the Cayman Islands in 2005 to open offshore bank accounts to receive the bribe money. Eurica Pressley also drew up and signed bogus “consulting agreements” and prepared false invoices designed to justify the bribe payments.

The Pressleys used nearly $2 million in bribe money to buy real estate in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Eventually, Pressley was transferred out of Kuwait. But the corruption didn’t leave with him: Hall also paid some $300,000 in bribes to James Momon after Pressley and Cockerham left the country. Momon then routed some $6.4 million in bottled water through Hall’s company.

According to the Department of Justice, Eddie Pressley was sentenced in January 2012 to 144 months in prison. Eurica Pressley received a 72 month prison sentence in February.

Momon pleaded guilty to receiving approximately $1.6 million in bribes and agreed to pay $5.7 million in restitution. His sentencing is not yet scheduled. On Jan. 8, 2009, Murray pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and making a false statement. He was sentenced on Dec. 17, 2009, to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay $245,000 in restitution.. On June 9, 2011, Shoemake pleaded guilty to two counts of bribery, including receiving $215,000 from Hall. Shoemake, who retired a Lieutenant Colonel, was sentenced to 41 months in prison, and ordered to pay $181,900 in restitution and forfeit another $61,100.

The heaviest sentence was imposed on Cockerham, though – who prosecutors considered the ringleader of the corrupt procurement operation. Notice how the bribe amounts got really big as soon as he was cut in on the deal. That $800,000 he received from Hall, for the bottled water contract, was peanuts. When the FBI raided Cockerham’s home at Fort Sam Houston, they found a ledger detailing some $30 million in bribe payments that he and his wife, Melissa Cockerham had received. The Department of Justice alleged that while Cockerham was doing business in Kuwait, businessmen would show up at their Fort Sam Houston home with shopping bags full of cash. Other bribe payments were made to Cockerham’s sister, Carolyn Blake. The judge sentenced Cockerham to 17 years and ordered him to pay over $9 million in restitution.

The bribery scheme may also have led to two other suicides:

Lieutenant Colonel Marshall Gutierrez, another member of the corrupt Arifjan procurement team, committed suicide after being arrested outside of a Kuwait restaurant, accused of soliciting a $3,400 bribe from a laundry services contractor. He swallowed a bottle of pills.

Sergeant Denise A. Lannaman, of Queens, New York, had recently been transferred to the procurement group at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. One of her fitness reports had mentioned that her oversight of federal contracts had reduced fund misuse by 36 percent. At some point, she was called in to a sergeant first class’s office and told that she was going to be sent home in disgrace. According to an Army spokesperson, SGT Lannaman was not the subject of any investigations related to corruption. She was found dead of a gunshot wound in a military vehicle.

Although SGT Lannaman had a history of psychiatric problems, including a prior suicide attempt, some have speculated that SGT Lannaman, a lesbian, had been blackmailed by LTC Gutierrez and possibly others into cooperating with the bribery operation.

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