Wednesday, June 29, 2005

An Open Request

The only known photo of Kirk von Ackermann was originally published by the Half Moon Bay Review accompanying the article, Von Ackermann: 'a regular guy?', by Jeanine Gore, on November 24, 2003.

I am unaware of any photos on the web of Ryan Manelick.

I would be grateful if members of either of the two famillies would kindly consider emailing me a photo of Kirk von Ackermann or Ryan Manelick for posting on the Missing Man. Privacy of senders will be respected.

susie dot dow at gmail dot com

Thank you for your attention and consideration. My apologies to those of you whom this request might offend.

Update: Replaced old yahoo email address with new gmail address.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Reports of Corruption in Iraq

Rare or widespread?

Colin Freeman reported in his February article, Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man, that both von Ackermann and Manelick had raised concerns about corruption.

In recent months, news stories on contract fraud in Iraq have been appearing in the press much more frequently. While the following sample of articles discuss companies and people unrelated to Kirk von Ackermann or Ryan Manelick, it provides a glimpse into the bigger picture of the overall business environment that some contractors are working in.

Most of the articles on fraud and corruption seem to cover mismanagement, over billing, kick backs, and missing funds.

The first article is rare in that it also reports the death of another civillian contractor who had complained about corruption. The circumstances, however, are much different than those surrounding von Ackermann and Manelick. The contractor, Dale Stoffel, was working with the Iraqi Defense Ministry, the amount was 20 times that of the Ultra Services' contract for containerized offices, Stoffel's death was one year after Manelick was gunned down, and finally, Stoffel was an arms dealer.

A long article on contractor Dale Stoffel can be read in this month's Washington Monthly, The Unquiet American, by Aram Roston, June 2005.

For the purposes of brevity, and this post is getting long, I am linking to an earlier article from the Los Angeles Times.

Army Ignored Broker on Arms Deal
by Ken Silverstein and T. Christian Miller, Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2005

Soon after interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi took office last summer, he announced plans to create a tank division for the new Iraqi army.

The $283-million project was supposed to display the power of Iraq's new government. But under the guidance of a task force overseen by one of America's top generals, it has become another chapter in a rebuilding process marked by accusations of corruption.

The U.S. contractor working on the project repeatedly warned the task force headed by Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus that a Lebanese middleman involved in the deal might be routing kickbacks to Iraqi Defense Ministry officials. But senior U.S. military officials did not act on the contractor's pleas for tighter financial controls, according to documents and interviews.

"If we proceed down the road we are currently on, there will be serious legal issues that will land us all in jail," the contractor, Dale Stoffel, wrote in a Nov. 30 e-mail to a senior assistant to Petraeus.

Eight days later, Stoffel was shot dead in an ambush near Baghdad. The killing is being investigated by the FBI, according to people who have been interviewed by the bureau.

Whistle-Blower Suit May Set Course on Iraq Fraud Cases
by Eric Eckholm, New York Times, May 22, 2005
In September 2004 the Pentagon, citing evidence of fraud and a continuing criminal investigation of Custer Battles, barred the company from receiving more federal contracts, halting what had been the company's explosive growth. The company was founded in 2001 by two veterans with more ambition than assets, and by mid-2004 it had $100 million in Iraq contracts.

The company's critics say its owners, Scott Custer and Mike Battles, benefited from the frantic awarding of contracts in 2003 and the constant turnover of monitors.

The whistle-blower suit accuses the company of defrauding the government through actions as large as the creation of shell companies to pose as suppliers and increase billable costs and as small as the repainting of Iraqi Airways forklifts, then claiming to have leased the machines for thousands of dollars per month.

Audit of Iraq Spending Spurs Criminal Probe
by Griff Witte, Washington Post, May 5, 2005
Investigators have opened a criminal inquiry into millions of dollars missing in Iraq after auditors uncovered indications of fraud in nearly $100 million in reconstruction spending that could not be properly accounted for.

The money had been intended for rebuilding projects in south-central Iraq. But auditors with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that of $119.9 million allocated, $7.2 million could not be accounted for at all, and $89.4 million in reported spending could not be backed up with sufficient documentation, according to a report released yesterday.


Criminal investigators with the office of Special Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen Jr. will be looking into whether anyone involved committed fraud, the audit says, although it does not disclose who is being investigated.

Iraq is becoming 'free fraud' zone
by Tom Regan, Christian Science Monitor, April 7, 2005
A former senior advisor to the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which ran Iraq until the election of an interim Iraq government last January, says that the US government's refusal to prosecute US firms accused of corruption in Iraq is turning the country into a "free fraud zone."

Newsweek reported earlier this week that Frank Willis compared Iraq to the "wild west," and that with only $4.1 billion of the $18.7 billion that the US government set aside for the reconstruction of Iraq having been spent, the lack of action on the part of the government means "the corruption will only get worse."


The Christian Science Monitor reported on other allegations of corrpution in Iraq leveled against companies, including a "report by special inspector Stuart Bowen [which] found that $8.8 billion dollars had been disbursed from Iraqi oil revenue by US administrators to Iraqi ministries without proper accounting."

Fraud and corruption
by George Monbiot, The Guardian, February 8, 2005
Last week a British adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council told the BBC's File on Four programme [sic] that officials in the CPA were demanding bribes of up to $300,000 in return for awarding contracts. Iraqi money seized by US forces simply disappeared. Some $800m was handed out to US commanders without being counted or even weighed. A further $1.4bn was flown from Baghdad to the Kurdish regional government in the town of Irbil, and has not been seen since.

See the following section for information on Fighting Fraud and Corruption.

Fighting Fraud & Corruption

The current investigation into the disappearance of Kirk von Ackermann and the death of Ryan Manelick is being handled by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command's Major Procurement Fraud Unit. See previous post for more details.

To combat fraud, the Coalition Provisional Authority lists a Fraud Hotline as well as provides an on-line complaint form at their website.

The Hotline is your means to report significant instances of fraud, waste, abuse of authority, and gross mismanagement. It is government policy to combat fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement in programs and operations funded by the Iraq relief and Reconstruction Fund. The Hotline strives to ensure that allegations are properly evaluated and examined, and that appropriate remedial, corrective, and judicial actions are taken.

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction
SIGIR Fraud, Waste and Abuse
400 Army Navy Drive
Arlington, VA 22202-4704
(866) 301-2003
(703) 602-4063
(703) 602-5993 fax
In addition to the efforts to combat fraud by the CPA, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has established a Tip Line and on-line complaint form to help alert Congress to contract fraud in Iraq.
This tip line has been established to assist the Special Investigations Division in investigating potential fraud, waste, and abuse in the awarding and execution of contracts to rebuild and rehabilitate Iraq, including actions by U.S. government agencies, prime contractors, and subcontractors. The confidentiality of any person providing information will be strictly preserved.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman
Special Investigations Division - Iraq Contracting
Committee on Government Reform Minority Staff
Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20015
(202) 225-5051
Note: click 'Iraq Contracting' on the right hand side bar for the on-line form.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a general tip line thru their website.
While the FBI continues to encourage the public to submit information regarding the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, this form may also be used to report any suspected criminal activity to the FBI.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
(202) 324-3000
Tip line: