Contractor gets 3-year sentence for Iraq fraud that cost US millions
By RACHEL WEINER | The Washington Post | Published: October 6, 2017
A former government contractor who helped scam the State Department out of millions of dollars was sentenced Friday to three years in prison.
Jose Rivera, 57, of Potomac, Maryland, worked with two others to trick the contractor DynCorp into paying a grossly inflated rent for a training camp in Iraq, according to prosecutors.
The State Department ultimately footed the bill for the property, which came out to over $5.3 million.
Judge Leonie Brinkema said a serious sentence was required to "make sure other people involved in government contracting know that if they commit fraud, even over there, there will be consequences."
But Brinkema acknowledged that Rivera, who has cooperated extensively with authorities and is expected to testify against a co-conspirator next month, will probably have his sentence reduced in the future.
Rivera was not the ringleader in the conspiracy. That man was Wesley Struble, who is serving a four-year prison sentence. Struble knew DynCorp was looking for property in Iraq for the State Department contract, which involved training civilian police officers. He was working for another contractor that was leasing property from an Iraqi company at Baghdad International Airport for $124,000 a month. So Struble approached Rivera, according to court documents, about DynCorp's potential interest in the site. He recruited Rivera and associates at the Iraqi company to increase the rent to $665,000, splitting the difference.
Emil Popescu, a Romanian man who was working for the Iraqi company, was extradited to the United States and faces trial in November.
While he was only a recruit to the plot, Rivera did take thousands of dollars for his role in the scheme, which he sent through Struble's relatives and hid in speakers to avoid detection.
Rivera "no doubt believ[ed] that the taxpayer — and the U.S. Department of State — would not miss a couple more million dollars in a warzone," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Harrison and Kimberly Pedersen wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
He and Struble are now both liable for the $3.4 million in excess charges paid by the government.
Rivera worked at DynCorp for about 13 years and made $250,000 a year, according to court records, before starting his own security firm. Before becoming a government contractor, he served in the U.S. Army for nine years and as a D.C. police officer for 11.
An attorney for Rivera declined to comment after sentencing.