WASHINGTON -- An Illinois grand jury has accused a former Halliburton Co. worker and a Saudi colleague of scheming to overcharge the Pentagon for supplying fuel tankers for military operations in Kuwait.
In the first criminal charges stemming from Halilburton's work for the U.S. military in the Middle East, Jeff Alex Mazon, a former employee of Halliburton subsidiary KBR, and Ali Hijazi, the managing partner for Kuwaiti subcontractor LaNouvelle General Trading and Contracting Co., have been charged with defrauding the government out of more than $3.5 million.
Mazon, 36, was arrested in Norcross, Ga. Wednesday. Hijazi does not live in the United States and has not been apprehended.
According to the 10-count indictment, Mazon worked in Kuwait as the procurement, materials and property manager for Kellogg, Brown & Root Services from December 2002 until June 2003.
As part of his job there, Mazon was responsible for negotiating contracts with Halliburton's subcontractors.
Prosecutors say that in February 2003 Mazon was soliciting bids from potential subcontractros for fuel tankers to store and dispense fuel at an airport in Kuwait used by the U.S. military.
The company had estimated the cost of this six-month contract would be about $685,000.
Mazon is accused of inflating bids from both LaNovuelle and a competing Kuwaiti firm, to triple their actual offers. He allegedly then made sure LaNouvelle was awarded the contract -- at a price of more than $5.5 million.
Two months after Mazon left the company, LaNouvelle allegedly paid him a $1 million kickback, prosecutors contend.
"The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are not siphoned off or wasted in our defense procurement processes," Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray said in a prepared statement.
"Especially in a time of war, the relentless pursuit of those who would fraudulently divert money for their own benefit must be a high priority," Wray said.
Asked about the indictments, Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall noted: "This is a former employee.
"While performing a routine audit, Halliburton's own internal auditors discovered the possible wrongdoing in Kuwait more than a year ago. KBR immediately reported it to the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Defense. KBR has fully cooperated with DOJ in the investigation and will continue cooperating with government investigators throughout the remainder of the process," Hall said.
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