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Fort Campbell soldier charged with aiding bribery

Aug. 19, 2013 - 03:12PM   |  
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LOUISVILLE, KY. — An American soldier is charged with taking part in an alleged scheme to divert fuel trucks from a military base in Afghanistan to a local company, a plan court documents say cost the U.S. about $2.2 million in fuel over 18 months.

A bill of information unsealed Monday says Staff Sgt. Bilal Kevin Abdullah, 40, a member of the 426th Brigade Support Battalion based at Fort Campbell, Ky., took money from an Afghan trucking company to divert loaded fuel trucks from an American military outpost.

Abdullah’s charges are related to an ongoing case against two former soldiers and a civilian contractor in Colorado. Abdullah and the Colorado defendants were all charged with taking part in a scheme to order more fuel from military outposts in eastern Afghanistan, allegedly diverting the loads to an unnamed trucking company in exchange for money.

Abdullah, who is scheduled for a change of plea hearing Aug. 26 in federal court in Paducah, did not have an attorney listed in court records. Sgt. Christopher Weaver and civilian contractor Jonathan Hightower have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bribery. Both men are scheduled for sentencing in October in Colorado.

A second former soldier, Stephanie Charboneau, also known as Stephanie Shankel, is awaiting trial in September in Colorado. She is charged with conspiracy, bribery, theft, money laundering and structuring a transaction. Weaver and Charboneau were based at Fort Carson, Colo., as part of the 704th Brigade Support Battalion.

Court documents describe an alleged scheme that began in January 2010 when Hightower, an employee of Irving, Texas-based military contractor Fluor Inc., was assigned to Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. He worked in Afghanistan as a petroleum supply specialist, responsible for receiving and disbursing jet fuel.

In February 2010, FOB Fenty began receiving bulk fuel shipments from Pakistan for distribution to other posts in the area. Weaver and Charboneau would track the fuel coming and going from that base and create the necessary paperwork so the trucks could be loaded and travel.

Hightower told prosecutors he paid Charboneau $5,000 to arrange for the theft of the first 5,000 gallon fuel truck.

Weaver told prosecutors he joined the plot after returning from a mid-tour leave in March 2010.

Hightower and Weaver said they developed plans to provide more fuel trucks than those needed for legitimate reasons. The excess trucks were loaded with fuel, fake travel invoices were created and the trucks left the outpost and the fuel was stolen instead of making it to another military post.

Prosecutors said in court records that an Afghan private trucking company ultimately received the fuel that was stolen.

Hightower told prosecutors he paid a kickback to Weaver and Charboneau for each fuel truck taken.

Weaver left Afghanistan in May 2010 and Abdullah took his place at FOB Fenty. Prosecutors say the plan resumed with Abdullah in place of Weaver.

Messages left for Hightower’s attorney, Robert Sobel of Kingston, Texas, as well as Weaver’s public defender, Scott Thomas Varholak in Colorado, were not returned Thursday. A message left for Charboneau’s attorney, Dennis Hartley of Colorado Springs, Colo., was not immediately returned.

A message left with the media relations office at Fluor was not immediately returned Thursday.

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