Army Corps worker accused in Iraq contract bribes

AP News
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Posted: Oct 13, 2010 6:55 PM
Army Corps worker accused in Iraq contract bribes

An employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a construction company seeking contracts for projects in Iraq worth millions of dollars, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday.

John Alfy Salama Markus, also known as John Salama, made an initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon, where U.S. Magistrate Mark Falk ordered him released on $500,000 bond secured by property. He did not enter a plea.

Markus faces charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and money laundering. The money laundering count carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence.

Also charged in the alleged scheme was Ahmed Nouri, also known as Ahmed Bahjat, vice president of a construction and engineering company seeking work in Iraq. Nouri was still at large Wednesday.

Markus' attorney, Stacy Biancamano, said he was a soldier in Iraq before working for the Army Corps of Engineers and had earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

According to the criminal complaint, Markus, an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen who lived in central New Jersey, monitored contracts as a project engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq in 2007 and 2008. It was unclear from the complaint whether Markus was a civilian or military employee, and Biancamano did not immediately return a phone call seeking further comment Wednesday.

The complaint alleges Markus took bribes from Nouri in exchange for providing confidential information to Nouri's company, Iraqi Consultants & Construction Bureau, about bidding negotiations on certain projects.

Markus also allegedly steered Army Corps of Engineers projects to Nouri, including a $6.25 million project to enhance security at the Bayji Oil Refinery in central Iraq for which Markus allegedly received at least $200,000 in bribes.

Citing Army Corps of Engineers records, the complaint alleges four more contracts were awarded to ICCB in the summer of 2007 totaling approximately $6.3 million. For those projects, Markus allegedly sought $550,000 in bribes.

The U.S. attorney's office alleges Markus deposited the bribes in bank accounts in the Middle East and in the U.S. and used the money to build a $1.1 million house for himself and his wife in Nazareth, Pa. They had previously lived in Belle Mead, N.J.

In a November 2007 e-mail, Markus wrote to Nouri, "I saved a lot of money for you guys and I need at least 400K form ICCB for all the work I done for you I made you a lot of profit," the complaint alleges.