COLUMBUS, Ohio — A former Las Vegas contractor who was extradited from Iraq after six years on the run pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges in Dayton Monday.
Metin Atilan, 54, is accused of attempting to bribe U.S. officials to win multimillion-dollar military contracts. He is the first person to be returned to the United States under the U.S.-Iraq extradition treaty of 1936, federal officials said.
“When you look at world events and Iraq’s long history of turmoil and war, it’s really quite remarkable,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Dwight Keller said.
The FBI, Interpol, the Iraqi government and the criminal investigative arm of the Defense Department’s inspector general’s office were among the agencies involved in the case.
Atilan, a dual U.S. and Turkish citizen, arrived in Dayton from Iraq on Sunday and is being held in the Montgomery County jail. A detention hearing has been scheduled on Thursday.
He is charged with conspiracy to engage in contract fraud, conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and wire fraud. If found guilty on all counts, he could be sentenced to 65 years in prison and fined more than $2 million.
Atilan was first arrested in Las Vegas on May 23, 2008, after an FBI sting. He was made to wear a monitoring device pending a formal hearing before a federal judge in Dayton. But a few weeks later, he cut off the electronic bracelet and fled.
Using fake passports, he traveled to California, Mexico, Brazil and then the Middle East, where he bounced between countries that included the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Iraq, Keller said. As far as federal officials know, Atilan continued to operate his mostly family run construction businesses while on the run.
He was the chief operating officer of PMA Services of Las Vegas and Kayteks Ltd. of Adna, Turkey.
According to their websites before his arrest, the companies purported to have millions in contracts in Iraq for the U.S. Air Force, Army and Marines.
Keller said Atilan was blocked from receiving any U.S. defense contracts after the sting, and officials don’t believe he had any dealings with American businesses while he was a fugitive.
He was once stopped in Beirut by Interpol, but Lebanese officials refused to extradite him to the United States, Keller said.
According to court documents:
Law-enforcement officials in the U.S. began investigating Atilan after an Air Force contracting officer told the FBI in November 2007 that Atilan had offered him a bribe. FBI agents had the officer play along with the offer, and on Dec. 3, 2007, Atilan’s wife, Ayfer Atilan, wired $4,966 into the officer’s Dayton bank account as a kickback for a contract the officer had awarded him in 2006. That money came from an account in Turkey.
The Air Force officer then linked Atilan with an undercover agent posing as an Army contracting officer. In a meeting in London, the agent offered Atilan a $10 million contract for residential trailers for Iraq and Atilan promised him a $1 million kickback.
Through two intermediaries, Atilan delivered a total of $30,000 to the agent on Feb. 5 and 6 in 2008 in meetings at London hotels.