Friday, February 18, 2005

A Sudden Flurry

Five days ago, on February 13, 2005, numerous articles on Kirk von Ackermann and Ryan Manelick were published simultaneously: Time, San Francisco Chronicle, wire reports both foreign and domestic.

The article in the San Francisco Chronicle was again written by Colin Freeman from Tikrit, Iraq. Published on page A1, long and detailed, it focused on suspicions that the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and the murder of Ryan Manelick were connected. The most extensive to date, it also contained interviews with family members and business colleagues.

Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man by Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 2005

In the midafternoon of Oct. 9, 2003, Kirk von Ackermann, an American contract worker from the Bay Area, used a satellite phone to call a colleague from a lonely desert road between Tikrit and Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He told his colleague he had a flat tire and needed a jack.

About 45 minutes later, the colleague found von Ackermann's car, abandoned. There was no sign of von Ackermann, who had been alone when he called. No hint of struggle, not even a footprint. All that remained was his satellite phone, his laptop computer, and, on the car's backseat a briefcase holding $40,000 in $100 bills.

"It was as if he had been abducted by aliens," Ryan Manelick told The Chronicle shortly after von Ackermann disappeared. Manelick was one of von Ackermann's colleagues at Ultra Services, a civilian contracting company they both worked for in Iraq, supplying U.S. military bases with tents, mobile homes, toilets, computers and Internet access.

Just over two months later, on the morning of Dec. 14, Manelick was shot dead near Camp Anaconda, a U.S. military base about 50 miles north of Baghdad, and about 50 miles south of where von Ackermann had disappeared.

Without A Trace In Iraq by Douglas Waller, Time Magazine, February 13, 2005.

The same article also appeared at Time Online Edition under the title and url Foul Play in Iraq?
The army has launched a fraud investigation into the mysterious disappearance of an American contractor in Iraq and the killing of a co-worker shortly afterward, Defense officials tell TIME. On Oct. 9, 2003, Kirk von Ackermann, 37, was driving alone in northern Iraq when he pulled off the road with a flat tire and phoned the Kirkuk office of his employer--Ultra Services, based in Winters, Calif.--for help. A colleague arrived and found the car but not Von Ackermann. There were no bloodstains or bullet holes in the vehicle. And Von Ackermann didn't seem to be the victim of bandits because his computer, satellite phone and a briefcase containing $40,000 in cash were left in the car.

Two months later, north of Baghdad, gunmen in an SUV shot and killed Ryan Manelick, 31, another Ultra Services employee, and an Iraqi traveling with him by car. Manelick's father claims that his son had e-mailed him saying he suspected that colleagues at Ultra Services--whose website says it has done $14 million worth of business with the Pentagon--were involved in fraudulent activities with U.S. Army contracting officers. The Army's Criminal Investigation Command has confirmed that Manelick met with its investigators in Iraq but won't say what was discussed. TIME, however, has obtained an e-mail written by an Army investigator, who says Manelick visited her days before he died and said he was "fearful for his life." The e-mail doesn't say why.

The following from Agence France-Presse was fairly typical of wire reports recapping the Time and Chronicle articles.

US Army launches fraud probe in Iraq contractors' killing, disappearance: report by Andrew Hay, AFP, February 13, 2005
The US Army is investigating the killing in Iraq of a contractor who, according to his father, suspected that colleagues in his US-based company were involved in fraudulent activities with US Army contracting officers.

The murder of Ryan Manelick, 31, came two months after another Ultra Services employee, Kirk von Ackermann, 37, disappeared while driving alone in northern Iraq in 2003, Time magazine said.


1 comment:

Susie Dow said...

Press release for the article in Time can be found here:

Army has Launched Fraud Investigation