WASHINGTON (AFP) — A US military officer was charged Thursday with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash intended for relief and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Justice said.
While stationed in Iraq between April 2007 and February 2009, 28-year-old Michael Dung Nguyen is alleged to have stolen more than 690,000 dollars in US currency, sending it back to his home in northwestern Oregon state, the department said in a statement.
The funds were swiped from the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), designed to empower local commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan to respond to humanitarian relief and reconstruction efforts.
After his return from Iraq, Nguyen is accused of opening new accounts at numerous banks, including Bank of America and Washington Mutual Bank, to deposit the cash.
After making the deposits “in a manner intended to avoid detection,” according to the Justice Department, Nguyen allegedly attempted money laundering with the purchases of high-end goods.
He bought a luxury BMW vehicle and a 2009 model Hummer truck H3T, along with computers, electronic equipment and furniture, the indictment said.
Nguyen has been officially charged on three counts — theft of government property, money laundering and structuring financial transaction — and if convicted could face 30 years in prison and a 500,000-dollar fine.
The conduct alleged in the indictment amounts to a “flagrant and reprehensible disregard” of US army principles, according to prosecuting attorney Karin Immergut.
“By stealing money intended to assist Iraqi citizens, Capt. Nguyen betrayed his country and the fine men and women of our nation’s armed services,” she added in a statement.