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$40M fuel theft prompts global manhunt

Apr. 17, 2009 - 12:20AM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 17, 2009 - 12:20AM  |  
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. A former Army contractor convicted of stealing $40 million worth of fuel from a military base in Iraq is helping authorities in a global search for other suspects in the case, according to court records.

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. A former Army contractor convicted of stealing $40 million worth of fuel from a military base in Iraq is helping authorities in a global search for other suspects in the case, according to court records.

One suspect has already been arrested in the Philippines and now awaits indictment from a federal grand jury in Virginia.

Lee W. Dubois of Lexington, S.C., pleaded guilty last year to theft of government property and faces up to 10 years in prison. A sentencing hearing scheduled Thursday in Virginia was postponed.

The thefts occurred in 2007 and 2008 from Camp Liberty in Baghdad. Dubois admitted that he and others stole more than 10 million gallons of jet fuel and diesel fuel from the base. They used fraudulent paperwork so that fuel trucks could drive in and withdraw tens of thousands of gallons a day.

Dubois made a personal profit of at least $450,000 from the scheme and told investigators after his arrest that he may have profited by as much as $800,000.

According to court records, other suspects have scattered around the world and Dubois has been cooperating with investigators to locate them.

Robert John Jeffery, who was arrested in the Philippines in January and deported to the United States, is currently out on bond in the custody of his mother in Neosho, Mo., and awaiting indictment.

Jeffery, who according to an affidavit served as an escort for the fuel trucks, was paid anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000, Dubois told investigators.

One of Jeffery's lawyers, John Zwerling, said Jeffery lives in the Philippines with his wife and that he wasn't hiding out there evading capture.

"We believe the evidence will establish that he was offered what he believed to be a legitimate job with legitimate pay," Zwerling said.

Prosecutors have obtained arrest warrants for at least two other alleged coconspirators, identified as Elias Maalouf and Robert Everett Young. A court affidavit states that Maalouf recruited Dubois into the scheme. Young profited from the scheme by as much as $800,000, Dubois told investigators.

Dubois and Maalouf worked in late 2007 and early 2008 for Kuwait-based contractor Future Services General Trading and Contracting Co. Jeffery and Young were never employed by the contractor, but carried fraudulent ID cards listing them as company employees, according to an affidavit.

Dubois' sentencing hearing was postponed to give him an opportunity to make good on his promise to provide $450,000 in restitution. Dubois' lawyer, James Clark, said the money has not been turned over primarily because of paperwork delays in obtaining the funds from a Lebanese bank account.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee warned Thursday that he would likely deal with Dubois harshly at sentencing if he fails to make restitution.

"I'm looking at someone who has stolen from the government at a time of war," Lee said. "I'm curious about where all the money went."

The case is one of several in federal courts dealing with contractor fraud and theft in Iraq.

From 2003 to 2007, an estimated $85 billion or about 20 percent of the entire budget for the Iraq war during that time was awarded to contractors supporting the war.

Congress, concerned that fraud has been rampant, enacted a special commission to examine wartime contracting.

The Army's Criminal Investigations Command, which investigated Dubois, said last year that it had 90 criminal investigations under way related to alleged contract fraud in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Two dozen U.S. citizens had been charged or indicted.

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