Tuesday, June 10, 2008

UPDATED--Former Petraeus Colleague Convicted of Accepting Bribes in Iraq

Sorry to do this, but the lede was buried. I am republishing this story with updated information and some observations--originally, I had planned to call Selph a "little fish in a big pond." It now appears there are some serious questions to be asked of some very senior leaders.

From the New York Times, August 27, 2007:

Several federal agencies are investigating a widening network of criminal cases involving the purchase and delivery of billions of dollars of weapons, supplies and other matériel to Iraqi and American forces, according to American officials. The officials said it amounted to the largest ring of fraud and kickbacks uncovered in the conflict here.

The inquiry has already led to several indictments of Americans, with more expected, the officials said. One of the investigations involves a senior American officer who worked closely with Gen. David H. Petraeus in setting up the logistics operation to supply the Iraqi forces when General Petraeus was in charge of training and equipping those forces in 2004 and 2005, American officials said Monday.

There is no indication that investigators have uncovered any wrongdoing by General Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, who through a spokesman declined comment on any legal proceedings.


But now, American officials said, part of the criminal investigation is focused on Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph, who reported directly to General Petraeus and worked closely with him in setting up the logistics operation for what were then the fledgling Iraqi security forces.

That operation moved everything from AK-47s, armored vehicles and plastic explosives to boots and Army uniforms, according to officials who were involved in it. Her former colleagues recall Colonel Selph as a courageous officer who was willing to take substantial personal risks to carry out her mission and was unfailingly loyal to General Petraeus and his directives to move quickly in setting up the logistics operation.

“She was kind of like the Pony Express of the Iraqi security forces,” said Victoria Wayne, who was then deputy director of logistics for the overall Iraqi reconstruction program.

Still, Colonel Selph also ran into serious problems with a company she oversaw that failed to live up to a contract it had signed to carry out part of that logistics mission.

It is not clear exactly what Colonel Selph is being investigated for. Colonel Selph, reached by telephone twice on Monday, said she would speak to reporters later but did not answer further messages left for her.

Flash forward to today:

A retired U.S. Army colonel pleaded guilty Tuesday to awarding contracts in Iraq to a Kuwait-based firm in exchange for gifts.

Levonda Selph of Virginia admitted accepting $4,000 in cash and a $5,000 vacation to Thailand from the unidentified contractor, which was awarded $12 million in contracts to operate Defense Department warehouses in Iraq. [see below for Selph's link to Thailand]

She pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and conspiracy. She was secretly indicted on those charges in October; the charges weren't disclosed until her court appearance Tuesday.

Under terms of a plea agreement, Selph could receive up to 33 months in jail. She promised to repay the government $9,000 and to cooperate in an ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors said Selph was a lieutenant colonel at Camp Victory in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 when she led a committee that awarded the warehouse contracts.

The Justice Department said she will be free until her sentencing October 14 but will not be allowed to leave the country.

MISSING from that story is the original link between Selph and Petraeus, of course. Missing is the fact that Colonel Ted Westhusing killed himself over these very issues, according to his suicide note, which mentioned Petraeus by name. Think we'll hear anything about that?


Now we know why there was a link to Thailand:

In a phone interview from Bangkok, John Hess, who worked as the assistant director of operations for an American-owned company that helped manage supplies for Iraq, said payments to the companies that supplied arms to Iraq were often delayed because of missing DD-250s. He said he believed that the officers had the right motives but used dangerous methods.

“Once those weapons left normal channels,” Mr. Hess said, “none of us were ever sure where they were really going.”

Several co-workers complained about the unorthodox tactics of the two officers, including an accusation that Major Cox, 38, was stealing weapons, Major Isgrigg said. However, federal officials said the officers were not the targets of an investigation.

Even when they managed to get weapons to the Iraqi military, Major Isgrigg said, it was hard for him and Major Cox to feel triumphant. The Iraqi commanders could barely keep track of their troops, much less stocks of new weapons, he said. He estimated that 30 percent of the equipment he and Major Cox delivered went to Iraqi soldiers who showed up for duty one day, and disappeared the next.
“There were times we would issue a batch of weapons and within 10 days they would show up at the Enemy Weapons Purchase Program,” Major Cox, who is on his second tour in Baghdad, wrote by e-mail, referring to a military effort to buy guns from the streets.

“We didn’t always think we were going about things the right way,” said Major Isgrigg, who left Iraq in July. But he said he believed that his actions were necessary, saying of his commanders: “They rushed it. Their goal was to get those units standing as fast as possible, and then to get out of there. There was no planning for the long term.”

As the American military hurried to train and equip Iraqi security forces in the spring of 2004, the Pentagon turned to contractors to operate warehouses to store equipment and weapons.

Mr. Saffar managed an armory on the grounds of the Baghdad Police Academy, which along with a nearby warehouse was operated by an American-owned company based in Kuwait.

In July, the company, American Logistics Services, which later became Lee Dynamics International, was suspended by the Army from doing future business with the government amid accusations that the company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to military contracting officers. The company had won $11 million in contracts to manage five warehouses with arms and other equipment in Iraq.

The company’s armory, a long concrete building divided into two sections in the back, was a logistics hub for the new Iraqi police. Crates of AK-47s and Glock pistols purchased by the Pentagon were trucked to the armory by armed convoys from a large warehouse at Abu Ghraib, and Mr. Saffar issued them to cadets.

Yes, ALL of the crooks should be punished. But she gets prison while numerous others go free after building shit-encrusted buildings, a US Embassy complex that is an embarrassment to civilized society, setting up showers that electrocute troops, setting up water distribution facilities that distribute filthy water and shooting up Iraqis left and right?

We can send Colonel Selph to prison for pocketing a few grand but we can't even put Blackwater guards who have shot and killed human beings on trial because they have immunity? Is this a case where someone is going to point to her conviction and go, "see, we caught everyone who was stealing money, and we punished them, so the problem is now solved?" This is like claiming you saved America from terrorism by catching a bunch of guys who couldn't even buy combat boots.

Talk about a problem with your values system. Damn.

TPM Muckraker was ALL OVER this last year:

Nancy wrote on August 30, 2007 5:03 PM:
You are wrong about Joey Selph. You are getting half a story. I am assuming that you have never been in the military or have been some place like Iraq, during a war, with limited resources. If you knew Joey, you would know that she is an outstanding officer with superior morals. She would never and I repeat Never, do anything that was unlawful. She is the most patriotic person that I have ever met. I served underneath her and have only the utmost respect for her. When this is all said and done, you will find, that she did nothing wrong. Wait and see.......

As soon as Nancy, was done, some REAL commenting was done:

Jack the Bear wrote on November 11, 2007 2:14 PM:
LTC Selph is a nasty person. She lived in the ALS mansion in the Green Zone with the very contractor she was overseeing...drinking and carousing and having a big time corrupting good soldiers. Shame on you. Perhaps they will find out about the $5M in shipping containers you bought from Basil without authorization.

Jack the Bear wrote on November 12, 2007 9:42 AM:
You must not have really worked for her. I too, worked with her. I predicted, sooner or later, she would pay a high price for her greed and avarice. She trampled and corrupted many a good soldier while she was downrange and now she is paying the piper. She laid up with her KBR/PWC boyfriend and crushed anyone in her way. LTC Davis, her cohort, was just as bad, but I didn't know him that well. Just that they were working hard to ensure ALS had all the warehouse business in theatre locked up. Now I know why they were so keen to back a broken company who couldn't execute. Anytime there is an irrational exuberation about any one contractor for no reason, there is something bad going on. She is no hero, just a skanky zero.

The Truth wrote on November 13, 2007 6:04 AM:
The shame of it all is that General Patreaus' good name is ruined by this "skanky zero". LTC Selph worked for COL Hinton and when ever he tried to control her she would go to her CENTCOM buddies and then to Patreaus spewing things like they are hindering the distrobution of weapons. She would obtain and distribute alcoholic beverages to E-5s and below she also had a co-conspirator in CW3 McPheron who left country under the guise of heart trouble only to return back to Iraq within a month working for Basil who was supposed to provide 20 trucks per day but rarely had more than five but was always paid the full amount. When complaints were made again she would run to her CENTCOM buddies. LTC Patreaus did and is keeping his eyes on the big picture and trusted that officer's would do the right thing.

Jack the Bear wrote on November 13, 2007 9:51 AM:
You are correct. GEN Petraeus was busy focusing on the big picture and the "Scarecrow" LTC Selph was busy enriching herself and her cronies. There are other names not mentioned and I can't wait to see the next shoe drop. The KO who signed those sweetheart contracts forcing all incoming equipment into the ALS system had to be government. The stinky Taos weapons buys also had to be awarded by a govie. There will be much more uncovered before this is put to bed. Anyone who tried to manage the Scarecrow got stomped. Too bad for Gen Petraeus and COL Hinton. Two great soldiers whose reputations will be sullied by LTC Selph.

So who's going to ask General Petraeus to comment? Anyone?

Think we'll ever hear back?

This was in my original post, but it has been overtaken by events:
It is a good thing that she was caught, tried, and convicted when the evidence against her was weighed. You can't have crooks running around in Iraq if we're going to be there for a hundred years, obviously. And we can't have crooks who aren't smart enough to actually get paid--I mean, come on. You can save nine grand in a year if you ride the bus and use the generic toilet paper. I'm sorry, but nine grand is chump change for a O-5 deployed to a combat zone for a year.

Let's say she was at 18 years time in service, paid as an O-5, and we'll use the current numbers. Her monthly pay is, TAX FREE, $7,212.00. On top of that, she gets 12 months of imminent danger pay ($225 a month) and 12 months of family separation pay ($250 a month) if she has a family. Her income for one year of service in Iraq, just based on those figures, is approximately $92,200--and I'm not counting housing allowances or anything else. That's just her base pay, imminent danger pay and family separation pay. And she took a bribe on top of that for a measly $9,000? And risked her entire career, her retirement, everything for what amounts to a little more than a month of pay?

I don't know if it's better that we caught a crook or that we got one of Jerry's Kids out of uniform.

I'm not saying that she should have been given a free ride because she, quite clearly, did not hold sway over a whole lot of purchasing power while she was at Camp Victory in 2004-05. It looks to me like she was a very small fish in a much larger pond--full of people who were handling vast sums of money--so much so they needed forklifts to move it--and it looks to me like she was involved in some petty crimes.

No comments: