One defendant pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria, along with two relatives who lied to cover up his crime. Another alleged co-conspirator is headed for trial, and another is being extradited from Europe.
Federal authorities allege that the convicted man, Wesley Struble, who most recently lived in the Philippines, knew his co-defendants, Emil Popescu and Jose Rivera, from the world of Iraqi contracting.
Popsecu and Struble were working in 2011 at a company that leased a camp from an Iraqi firm for $124,000 a month. Together, according to prosecutors, they concocted a plan to get DynCorp to lease the camp for more than five times that amount.
Popescu went to work for the Iraqi company and persuaded them to cut their current lease, then offer the camp to DynCorp for half a million more a month, authorities allege. Struble, meanwhile, joined Rivera at DynCorp, where they helped persuade the McLean, Va.-based contractor to pay the inflated rent. They falsely claimed the previous tenant had paid the same amount.
The State Department paid $5,320,000 in rent for the property from September 2011 through April 2014. Popescu, Rivera and Struble shared the profits with Iraqi co-conspirators, according to prosecutors.
In a statement, DynCorp spokeswoman Mary Lawrence declined to comment, noting that the company “is not the subject of this investigation.”
Rivera and Struble sent thousands of dollars back to family in the United States, sometimes hidden in stereo speakers, according to court documents.
Struble persuaded his mother and sister to lie about that money. Now, all three have pleaded guilty — Struble to conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Act, and his mother and sister to lying in front of a grand jury.
In a recorded phone call in November 2015, Struble told Rivera to simply pretend he had been saving money for years.
“It takes a lot to go into bank records anyway, you know, for any sort of investigation,” Struble said, according to court records.
Rivera, who court records indicate was working with federal agents, said he did not know how much money they had made but that he could not possibly have saved that much from his legitimate work.
“It wasn’t as much as we wanted, I know that,” Struble replied.
Popescu maintained in a March interview with special agents that the money he received was from his salary and performance bonuses, according to an FBI affidavit.
Rivera was arrested last month at his home in Potomac, Md. Popescu, a Romanian citizen, was arrested in that country around the same time, according to local news reports. Both are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Rivera on Friday pleaded not guilty and announced his intent to go to trial, despite having cooperated in the investigation against Struble. Popescu is still in the process of being extradited.
Struble, 49, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison Friday. He was also ordered to pay approximately $3.4 million in restitution.
The U.S. native has for the past five years been living in the Philippines with a woman he met in Iraq. They have two children together, along with her two children from a previous marriage.
In court filings, defense attorneys emphasized that he is a decorated veteran of the war in Iraq. Struble was awarded a Bronze Star for his work as an Air Force counterintelligence agent just after the invasion. His crime, they say, was an “isolated incident.”