WASHINGTON – An employee of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, was found guilty today by a jury in Alexandria, Va., of stealing nearly $250,000 intended for the payment of shipping and customs services for the embassy, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Osama Esam Saleem Ayesh, 36, is a resident of Jordan hired by the Department of State as a shipping and customs supervisor at the embassy in Baghdad, who oversaw the shipments of personal property of embassy officials and personnel in Iraq. His duties required that he maintain close contact with local Iraqi companies and vendors with expertise in clearing goods through Iraqi customs. As a State Department employee, Ayesh was aware that he would be subject to the conflict of interest laws of the United States that prohibit government employees from using their position for personal profit.
On Oct. 15, 2010, Ayesh was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of theft of public money and one count of engaging in acts affecting a personal financial interest. Today, a jury found him guilty on all three counts. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years for each theft count and five years in prison for the conflict of interest charge when he is sentenced on April 8, 2011, by U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis III. Ayesh was arrested at Dulles International Airport on Aug. 16, 2010.
According to court records, Ayesh used his State Department computer to create a phony e-mail account in the name of a real Iraqi contractor and used that e-mail account to impersonate the contractor in communications with embassy procurement officials. He also established a bank account in Jordan under his wife’s name to further his criminal scheme and falsified wire transfer instructions that directed U.S. government electronic funds transfers to that account.
Court records and evidence at trial showed that Ayesh was personally involved in establishing and operating blanket purchase agreements for the provision of customs clearance and delivery services to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. From November 2008 to June 2010, Ayesh submitted false invoices in the name of an Iraqi contractor – which Ayesh fabricated on blank stationery he kept in his embassy apartment – and caused the U.S. Department of State to wire $243,416 to his wife’s account in Jordan.
This case was prosecuted by David Laufman of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, who is on detail to the Department of Justice from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas McQuillan of the Eastern District of Virginia. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance in this matter. The case was investigated by special agents of the State Department’s Office of Inspector General and the FBI’s Washington Field Office.