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We Served Too: Remembering Civilian Sacrifices Made on Behalf of Country and Honoring Those Who Serve Alongside the Military in Conflict Zones

Anne Speckhard – (Huffington Post) – May 28, 2013 – This Memorial Day all Americans send a heartfelt salute to all those warriors who fought and died so gallantly in recent and far off wars in behalf of our freedoms and safety.  On behalf of those who died, we can never thank them or their families enough for the ultimate sacrifice they made for our country. Alongside that salute we now also need to begin to honor the oft forgotten civilians who also serve in war and high threat security environments alongside the military, supporting their efforts and working in concert with them — especially all those civilians who served in the two recent U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — as many civilian workers have also lost their lives while serving our country.

While we don’t often remember the sacrifices of civilian workers in conflict zones, or have a holiday to commemorate their service, we do need to honor that they too serve their country.

A little known fact is that in September 2007 there were more contractors in Iraq than combat troops.  According to a 2013 report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) reports that, “In September 2007, the United States had more than 170,000 combat personnel in Iraq as part of the counterinsurgency operation, with more than 171,000 contractors supporting the mission.”  These contractors are credited in the report for supporting “the counterinsurgency mission in unstable, yet strategically significant, areas such as Baghdad, Anbar, and Babylon provinces.”

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Defense Contractor Can Seek Millions From Iraq

Rose Bouboushian – (Courthouse News) -  April 24, 2013 – Iraq may owe $24 million to a contractor that says it refurbished military vehicles and weapons, and collected scrap metal for the war-torn country, a federal judge ruled.

Wye Oak Technologies filed a federal complaint in 2009, claiming it had been hired five years earlier to work with top U.S. military officials, including then Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, to organize the effort to repair damaged military equipment.

Despite numerous meetings with Iraqi officials who promised payments, however, the three invoices Wye Oak submitted that year were ignored. Wye Oak said Iraq owes it roughly $24 million.

On a December 2004 trip to Baghdad to collect payment on the invoices, Wye Oak’s then president, Dale Stoffel, and another employee were assassinated. Wye Oak’s employees and contractors worked in the country until nonpayment forced them to stop in 2007.

Though both parties agree that the murders remain unsolved, Iraq maintains that the FBI has not linked Stoffel’s death to a known terrorist group or to the contract dispute. After taking over as president for his brother, David Stoffel allegedly received death threats.

On May 20, 2004, Stoffel was granted limited immunity from prosecution by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) in a whistleblower complaint. He gave investigators information regarding U.S. corruption in the Iraqi reconstruction effort that implicated Colonel Ronald W. Hirtle and Colonel Anthony B. Bell and SIGIR opened an investigation of these two officers, among others. In early May 2004, Col. Hirtle had signed a 10 million dollar contract with Lee Dynamics International, a company that raised investigators’ suspicions. Col. Bell was later implicated in the bribery case of Maj. John Cockerham. In his statement, Stoffel described thousands of dollars in payments being delivered to American contracting offices in pizza boxes, pizza delivery-style, and dead drop payoffs in paper sacks dropped off throughout the Green Zone. ~Wikipedia bio of Dale Stoffel

Though Wye Oak attempted mail service on Iraq in October 2009, no signed receipt was ever returned. Wye Oak then commenced service via diplomatic channels in December 2009.

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CPT (former) Sean Patrick O’Brien sentenced to 23 months for accepting illegal gratuties in Iraq

Former U.S. Army Captain Sentenced in Oklahoma City to 23 Months in Prison for Conspiracy to Accept Illegal Gratuities

(DoJ) – April 1, 2013 – A former U.S. Army Captain was sentenced today in Oklahoma City to serve 23 months in prison for conspiracy to accept thousands of dollars in gratuities from contractors during his deployment to Baghdad, Iraq, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma Sanford C. Coats.

Sean Patrick O’Brien, 38, of Lawton, Okla., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stephen P. Friot in the Western District of Oklahoma.  In addition to his prison term, O’Brien was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $37,500 in restitution to the United States.

O’Brien pleaded guilty on Nov. 9, 2012, to a criminal information charging him with two counts of conspiracy to accept illegal gratuities.

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Former SSGT Richard Gilliland pleads guility to Iraq bribery scheme while deployed

Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Pleads Guilty in Tennessee to Bribery Scheme

DoJ – February 20, 2013 – A former U.S. Army staff sergeant pleaded guilty today to accepting thousands of dollars in bribes from contractors while he was deployed to Iraq, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee William C. Killian.

Richard A. Gilliland, 44, of Fayetteville, Tenn., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan K. Lee in the Eastern District of Tennessee to a criminal information charging him with one count of conspiracy to accept illegal bribes.

According to court documents, from October 2007 until November 2008, Gilliland was a U.S. Army staff sergeant who worked with the Civil Affairs Unit at Camp Victory in Iraq and also was assigned as a pay agent responsible for U.S. government funds. As a pay agent, Gilliland was responsible for paying contractors to perform work in accordance with civil development objectives set forth by U.S. Army commanders in furtherance of the strategic mission of Coalition Forces in Iraq.

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Jill Ann Charpia sentenced to 30 months for Iraq contract fraud

Former Co-Owner of Contracting Company Sentenced  in San Antonio to 30 Months in Prison for Scheme to Defraud the U.S. Government

(DoJ) – January 24, 2013 – A former co-owner of a U.S. civilian contractor company was sentenced today in San Antonio to serve 30 months in prison for falsifying official documents in connection with Iraq reconstruction government contracts, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman for the Western District of Texas.

Jill Ann Charpia, 33, formerly of San Antonio and currently of Colorado, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia in the Western District of Texas.  In addition to her prison term, Charpia was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $920,000 plus interest in restitution to the United States.

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