[JURIST] US Department of Justice officials announced Friday that a private security company contracted by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) [official website] and four of its executives and employees have been charged with conspiracy, major fraud and wire fraud [press release] in connection with alleged efforts to interfere with US military and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Delmar Dwayne Spier, Barbara Edens Spier, William Felix Dupre, and Behzad Mehr all worked for United States Protection and Investigation (USPI) [corporate website] based in Houston. Commenting on the charges, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Adrienne R. Rish said that
USAID and the American companies it relies upon to deliver development programs throughout the world must always be steadfast protectors of U.S. taxpayer funds. As highlighted by this indictment, the USAID Office of Inspector General will vigorously pursue the investigation and prosecution of fraudulent activities and hold accountable those who would attempt to violate the provisions of this integral component of the U.S. foreign assistance program.The indictment against the USPI staffers alleges they defrauded the United States "by obtaining reimbursement for inflated expenses supposedly incurred by USPI for rental vehicles, fuel and security personnel." If convicted of major fraud the defendants could face up to 10 years and a $1 million fine. AP has more.
US officials and lawmakers have recently expressed growing concern over allegations of fraud by US subcontractors working in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In May, the Department of Defense Inspector General's Office [official website] concluded in a report that the US military had failed to ensure [JURIST report] that over $8 billion dollars in Iraq reconstruction contracts awarded between 2001 and 2006 complied with federal anti-fraud laws.