Arrest in Kickback/Bribe Scheme on Iraq Reconstruction

Keith Haring mural reconstruction, New YorkImage by racoles via Flickr

Former DOS program manager charged

Mary Beth Sheridan of the Washington Post reports on a former State Department program manager in Iraq who has been charged with accepting tens of thousands of dollars in kickbacks in exchange for steering contracts to Iraqi construction firms (WaPo |October 21, 2009):

The criminal complaint, unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court in western Texas, charged Richard Lopez Razo, 52, with illegal receipt of kickbacks and bribes and with wire fraud. He was arrested Friday in Sterling and later released on his own recognizance, court documents said.

From 2005 to July 2008, Razo worked in Iraq as a logistics specialist for three U.S. companies, according to the complaint. It alleges that during that period he requested tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from Iraqi subcontractors for lining up construction contracts. The subcontractors sent some of the money to Razo’s North Carolina bank account via wire transfers, according to the allegations.

Razo began work for the State Department as a provincial program manager in Iraq in September 2008, with oversight for reconstruction projects in the south, according to the court documents.

The news item posted in Huffington Post has additional details of the case here, including specific allegations in the 16-page affidavit executed by James Wray, a special agent with the SIGAR’s office. I’m trying to locate the unsealed complaint; DOJ has nothing online on this as of this writing.

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Updated: From the State Dept DPB on October 21, 2009:

QUESTION: Ian, any reaction to the State Department official charged with taking kickbacks from reconstruction contracts in Iraq?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I don’t have a reaction, per se, because we don’t want to really comment on an ongoing criminal investigation, which is what we’re talking about here. I can talk to you about what his status was with the Department of State. He had a temporary Civil Service appointment to the State Department that was limited to Iraq only and limited to a particular timeframe. And he began employment with the Department of State in July of 2008, and his employment terminated just last week.
He was a provincial program manager on the Maysan Provincial Reconstruction Team in Iraq. And in this role, he would have had – he would have managed U.S. Government projects and programs designed to improve stability and security in Iraq. But beyond that, I really can’t say any more.
QUESTION: Did the State Department play any role in the investigation?
MR. KELLY: I can’t really comment on that, I’m afraid.
QUESTION: Well, was he – what was the length of his contract? Did it run its course or was he —
MR. KELLY: It – the contract ran out on October 16.
QUESTION: So he wasn’t fired, in other words?
MR. KELLY: No, because his contract ran out.