Trial continues for former WV soldier accused of bribery - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Trial continues for former WV soldier accused of bribery, money laundering

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A former contracting specialist at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait testified June 19 that he was told steering contracts to certain contractors in exchange for bribes was common practice among contract officers and specialists.

James Momon was one of several witnesses called by federal prosecutors in the trial of a former Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Allen Evick, 41, of Parsons, and his alleged associate, Crystal Yvette Martin, 48, of Pontiac, Mich. Evick and Martin are charged in a bribery and money-laundering scheme.

The trial began June 19 and continues June 20 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in Elkins.

According to court documents, Evick is charged with receiving more than $170,000 in bribes from two firms that had contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense in Kuwait.

Martin is accused of laundering the bribe money. Martin is a former Army master sergeant who operated a concession to sell clothing at U.S. military bases in Kuwait, a news release from the Department of Justice stated. Prosecutors accuse Martin of arranging transfers of bribe money to the U.S. that eventually went to Evick, his wife and his girlfriend.

The indictment also alleges Evick and former majors Momon and Christopher Murray "improperly disclosed contracting information to two firms that were seeking contracts from the U.S. military," the news release stated.

As a result, the news release continued, firms received almost "$25 million from contracts to deliver bottled water and other commodities to the U.S. military bases in Iraq and Kuwait as well as to paint and clean Department of Defense facilities in Kuwait."

"In exchange, Evick, Momon and Murray allegedly received cash, airplane tickets, hotel accommodations and the ability to conceal large amounts of cash in a hidden safe located in the villa of Wajdi Rezik "Dino" Birjas, a Department of Defense contract employee who worked in the host nation affairs at Camp Arifjan," the news release stated.

During testimony June 19, Momon, who previously has guilty to bribery and conspiracy for his role in receiving bribes, said the first time he heard about bribes was from a contract specialist who was his sponsor.

"He was telling me all contract specialists and officers engaged in accepting bribes and that it was an opportunity of a lifetime and to take advantage of it," Momon testified.

Momon said the first time he left Kuwait, he got Evick to manage the bottled water project. When Momon arrived back in Kuwait, a contractor asked both Momon and Evick to meet with him, Momon said.

At that time, Momon said he told the contractor to give $75,000 that he had received in bribe money to Evick.

Momon said he did not witness the conversation between Evick and the contractor, but he said Evick came out of the office with a briefcase filled with $150,000.

"He stated he could give it to a friend," Momon said, noting he thought that friend was Martin. "I was a little concerned because it's difficult handling that amount of money. … He said ‘I'm not bringing it back to Arifjan.' … We split. I went to Dino's house, and he took the vehicle and went to the friend."

Momon said the first time he met Martin was when he and Evick were flying to Saudi Arabia for contract training. Once Martin arrived, Momon said they moved upstairs in the airport to a "less conspicuous" place to talk.

Momon said Evick told him that Martin had a jewelry business that she used to move money to the United States.

"A sales receipt was created so there would be an appearance of propriety in the sale and then they sent it (the money) to the states as payments," he said.

Momon said he and Evick talked about using bank accounts in the Cayman Islands but he said Evick preferred Martin to hold on to the money. Momon, meanwhile, said his bribe money — totaling $1 million — was hidden in a safe in a closet of Birjas' house.

Momon said when he left Kuwait again, Evick was to oversee the bottled water project. However, Momon said he tried to protect Evick from other large contractors from strong-arming him.

"I didn't want him to be in the same position I was in where the large companies had leverage," Momon said mentioning much of the leverage came from the person who managed the bottled water project before him. "I told contractors that he was not to be approached. He was not that type of person."

Momon said only one contractor, the same one they had met earlier when Evick allegedly received the suitcase, was allowed to approach him.

Momon said when he heard of an investigation of a former contract specialist, he chiseled away defining marks on expensive jewelry he received and had burned his money.

However, he was approached by federal investigators later who seized remaining items. Momon said he agreed to cooperate with investigators from then on.

Investigators planted a recording device on Momon for a meeting with Evick. Momon said he met Evick behind an Italian restaurant in Alexandria, Va.

Momon said Evick talked about law enforcement's presence at Camp Arifjan and talked about the possibility of Martin bringing back the money Birjas was holding. Momon said he was expecting $250,000, but Evick told him Martin was only given $50,000.

Referencing the recording, Momon said Evick talked about avoiding certain topics on the phone with Martin.

"That was a precaution that calls were being monitored. It was a caution to minimize the risk of incriminating them for the money illegally gained through bribes," Momon said.

Momon also said Evick told him he would try to disguise the call to Martin so the numbers couldn't be tracked.

Additionally, Momon said Evick told him one of the contractors owed him because he allegedly gave the contractor a statement of work before a notice went out so the contractor could prepare the resources to get the bid.

"He said he did everything but he didn't award the bid. He didn't want his name on it. He didn't want to tie himself to that award, especially if it was giving an unfair advantage," he said.

Momon also said Evick told him he would hold the money for him. 

"He said if I wanted to mail the bribe money, he would be willing to hold it for me and bury that sh** at his house," Momon said later adding Martin would get a significant portion for bringing back the money.

During cross examination, Momon admitted he had never received money from Evick or Martin from Birjas. Cross examination of Momon will continue at 8:30 a.m. June 20.

Earlier during the trial, an agent with the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General testified that she and others searched Evick's home in Parsons after they were led to believe there were large sums of money inside. However, on cross-examination, the agent said no money was discovered.

Federal prosecutors allege the firms set up by Evick, Martin and others received almost "$25 million from contracts to deliver bottled water and other commodities to the U.S. military bases in Iraq and Kuwait as well as to paint and clean Department of Defense facilities in Kuwait."


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