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5 indicted in contract bid-rigging

WASHINGTON -- Five Americans, including three US Army Reserve officers, were indicted yesterday, accused of taking part in a bid-rigging scam that steered millions of dollars for Iraq reconstruction to a contractor in exchange for cash, luxury cars, and jewelry.

An American businessman in Romania, Seymour Morris Jr., was charged as the go-between for the military officers and the contractor. William Driver, t he husband of one of the reservists, was accused of helping smuggle tens of thousands of dollars into the United States that the couple used to pay for a deck and a hot tub at their New Jersey house.

Together, the five used the $26 billion Iraqi rebuilding fund "as their own personal ATM machines," Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said .

"These defendants actually took bricks of stolen cash . . . and smuggled them out of Iraq and back to the United States for their own personal use," McNulty said.

The 25-count indictment, filed in US District Court in New Jersey, marks the latest development in an investigation of $8.6 million in Iraq contracts awarded to construction mogul Philip H. Bloom.

Bloom, a US citizen who ran construction and services companies under Global Business Group, has admitted to laundering at least $2 million stolen from reconstruction funds managed by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. He awaits sentencing.

McNulty said the five people indicted yesterday stole or misused $3.6 million from the CPA fund.

The three reservists -- Colonel Curtis G. Whiteford of Utah, Lieutenant Colonel Debra M. Harrison of New Jersey, and Lieutenant Colonel Michael B. Wheeler of Wisconsin -- were responsible for helping supervise the funding and progress of the CPA contracts in Hillah, Iraq .