Fort Bragg soldier pleads guilty in bribery case

A Fort Bragg soldier has pleaded guilty to receiving bribes while deployed to Afghanistan and to stealing fuel from U.S. soldiers.

Sgt. 1st Class James Edward Travis entered his plea at a federal court in Greenville, officials said.

He is charged with demanding, seeking, receiving and accepting bribes and aiding and abetting the theft and conversion of government property.

Sentencing is set for March, according to court records.

Travis was assigned to Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group in Afghanistan from Jan. 3, 2012, to Oct. 4, 2012, according to court documents.

He was stationed at Forward Operating Base Sharana, a once large U.S. base in Afghanistan's Paktika province that has since been handed over to the Afghan government.

Travis, who lives in Hope Mills, was first charged in November, according to court records.

He was accused of accepting kickbacks while serving as a contracting officer for the 3rd Special Forces Group in Afghanistan.

Travis was a paying agent and contracting officer representative who was responsible for approving the completion of contracts and approving payments.

He also coordinated cargo vehicles known as "jingle trucks" to move supplies between bases.

While serving in that role, Travis accepted bribes from vendors on a "quid pro quo" basis, federal prosecutors said. The kickbacks ranged from $4,000 to $7,000.

Travis received approximately $211,890, prosecutors said. He also worked with another U.S. soldier and an Afghan to steal 182,815 gallons of fuel from Forward Operating Base Sharana. The fuel was valued at $422,302.

Investigators said the crimes were disheartening and put the lives of others at risk.

"Public corruption such as this defendant's criminal conduct undermines our nation's reconstruction efforts overseas and dishonors the sacrifice our military makes every day," U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker said in a release.

John F. Khin, special agent in charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service's Southeast Field Office, said the corruption affected taxpayer dollars meant to support warfighters.

"It is disheartening when a military member abandons his code of conduct and violates a position of trust for personal enrichment," Khin said.

John F. Spoko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said the theft of fuel was serious. It robbed taxpayers and damaged the reconstruction effort, he said, and it could have wound up in the hands of insurgents.

"There must be zero tolerance for this kind of crime," Spoko said.

John Strong, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in North Carolina, agreed.

"American servicemen and women face dangerous situations every day; their lives should not be put at risk by fellow soldiers working for their own profit," he said.

Staff writer Drew Brooks can be reached at brooksd@fayobserver.com.

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