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Iraq

Official charged with Iraq kickback scheme

By Associated Press
Published November 18, 2005

WASHINGTON - U.S. occupation officials gave a man with a federal fraud conviction control of millions of dollars for Iraqi reconstruction. Now the man is charged with accepting kickbacks to steer contracts to a businessman.

Robert J. Stein Jr., 50, of Fayetteville, N.C., used some of the kickback money to make a restitution payment for his earlier conviction and his wife used some to pay federal taxes, according to a federal affidavit.

Stein faces conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud and other charges stemming from his alleged role in helping Philip H. Bloom, a U.S. citizen who has lived in Romania for many years, get contracts in Iraq worth more than $13-million, federal authorities said Thursday.

Prosecutors say Bloom, 65, paid kickbacks of more than $630,000 to Stein and others. Bloom has been charged with conspiracy and money laundering stemming from an investigation that Justice Department officials say could result in additional charges against others.

Stein, who worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and his wife bought real estate, cars, jewelry and home improvements with the money, according to federal affidavits made public Wednesday and Thursday. He and other CPA officials allegedly helped rig bids for Bloom and three companies he controlled for contracts to do work in Al-Hillah and Karbala, two cities 50 to 60 miles south of Baghdad.

Bloom was arrested Sunday at New Jersey's Newark International Airport, while Stein was arrested Monday in Fayetteville, authorities said. They are being held in federal custody, pending hearings in U.S. District Court in Washington beginning next week.

Stein was the comptroller and funding officer for the CPA's South Central Region.

Court records show he was convicted in 1996 for defrauding a financial institution. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight months in prison and three years of supervised release. He also was ordered to repay the unidentified institution $45,000.

MARINE KILLED: In continuing violence by insurgents, the U.S. military said Thursday a Marine was killed a day earlier during combat operations near the western Iraqi city of Haditha - one of seven American service members to die Wednesday. Six of them were Marines.

HUSSEIN BEATING CLAIM DENIED: Iraqi court officials denied Thursday that two court employees attacked Saddam Hussein and punched him several times after he cursed two Shiite Islam saints. Chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Mousawi said "no one in the court attacked Saddam or punished him and we will never allow anyone in the court to harm any of the defendants, whether it is Saddam or someone else." On Wednesday night, state-run Iraqiya television quoted unidentified people close to the investigative judges in reporting that Hussein had been assaulted.

[Last modified November 18, 2005, 01:29:09]


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