Watchdog: Follow the Money

Soldier pleads guilty to taking bribes, stealing fuel in Afghanistan

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Watchdog,Michal Conger,Army,Afghanistan,Waste and Fraud,Follow the Money,Justice Department,SIGAR

A U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant pleaded guilty in federal court this week in North Carolina to accepting bribes from contractors and stealing fuel while on duty in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Justice.

Sgt. 1st Class James Edward Travis was deployed to Forward Operating Base Sharana in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, between January and October 2012.

As a contracting officer representative and paying agent, he approved contract completion and payment, as well as arranging contracts for truckers to move supplies.

Travis accepted a total of $211,890 in kickbacks for contracts, with bribes ranging between $4,000 and $7,000 per contract, according to DOD.

“American servicemen and women face dangerous situations every day; their lives should not be put at risk by fellow soldiers working for their own profit.

"James Edward Travis stole thousands of dollars meant to support efforts in Afghanistan, but he could not hide his crimes from the FBI and our military partners dedicated to upholding justice,” John Strong, special agent in charge of the FBI in North Carolina, said in a statement.

Travis also worked with another U.S. soldier and an Afghan driver to steal fuel from the Army, according to the Department of Defense.

Travis paid the soldier to escort the driver to the base's fuel point and load fuel into his tanker truck, then escort him off the base.

Together they stole 182,815 gallons of fuel, which cost more than $422,000.

“Theft of fuel in a war zone is serious. Not only does it rob U.S. taxpayers and damage the reconstruction effort, stolen fuel can also wind up in the hands of insurgents bent on harming Americans," said John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

No sentencing date has been scheduled, according to a DOD spokesman.

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